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Government projects cash 'wasted'

Millions of pounds of public money is still being wasted through the mishandling of major Government projects, an Assembly scrutiny committee said.

The Public Accounts Committee's (PAC) report, which looked at how complex projects have been managed since 2007, also found that some major schemes have failed to deliver the benefits promised.

MLAs brought together the findings of a series of damning investigations into the handling of public finances to identify damaging trends that have yet to be wiped out inside Government ranks.

The report cited a series of examples, including how £75,000 was stolen from a publicly-funded body before the theft was spotted, plus how a rail improvement scheme ran nearly £20 million over the expected cost.

Sinn Fein committee chair Paul Maskey said: "The committee wanted to consolidate the key findings from previous PAC reports to reinforce recurring lessons to all Government departments about managing complex projects.

"In the current economic climate it is essential that the planning, management and evaluation of projects is appropriate and thorough to ensure that taxpayers get value for money."

Lessons highlighted by the committee's first report of this kind centred on project management. It drew out themes such as project appraisal, project team expertise, post-project evaluation and actions to protect the taxpayers' interests.

A number of cases examined by the committee have exposed what they described as a worrying lack of skills in areas such as IT, accounting and project management that undermines the public sector's ability to negotiate successful outcomes of projects with private sector contractors.

The committee noted a 2008 report by the Comptroller and Auditor General which examined how a senior official in the Sports Institute for Northern Ireland (SINI) had been convicted after stealing approximately £75,000. After the fraud was uncovered, the individual was charged and received a suspended prison sentence.

The PAC report said MLAs were concerned that the theft took place over an 11-month period before it was detected.


From Belfast Telegraph