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McCausland probe into how NIHE contracts managed

Category: Northern Ireland

Published: 5th Jul 2011 08:56:40

The Housing Minister Nelson McCausland has ordered an investigation into how contracts have been managed and monitored at the Housing Executive.

Mr McCausland said he had evidence to show that there had been double charging and over charging for work.

He said it involved more than one NIHE district and more than one contractor.

The NIHE said it was deeply concerned about some of the comments made by the minister.

The executive is holding an emergency board meeting on Tuesday morning to discuss a request by the minister to overturn its decision to end its contract with maintenance firm Red Sky.

The executive ended its £8m contract with the Belfast company in April.

Shortly after the contract was ended the firm went into administration.

Speaking on Good Morning Ulster on Tuesday, Mr McCausland said he was concerned about a number of contracts within the organisation.

"Since coming into the department of social development, I have been very concerned about the management and monitoring of Housing Executive maintenance contracts.

"I have organised an independent forensic investigation to be carried out of the way in which contracts have been managed and monitored.

"There has been internal investigations at a certain level by the NIHE, in addition to one particular piece of external investigation, but I think that is important for the confidence that we need to have in the organisation that there is full forensic investigation."

In a statement, the Housing Executive said it had "carried out robust investigations before taking the decisions which have led to the current position in relation to the Red Sky Group. It would be inappropriate to comment further ahead of this morning's emergency board meeting."

The Housing Executive ended all its repair contracts with Red Sky after it carried out an investigation into its work practices which included allegations of over-charging.

The firm has always denied the allegations.

Last week Nelson McCausland told the Housing Executive to re-instate Red Sky until a new system for awarding contracts was introduced.

The minister said he had asked the Housing Executive to start to procure a new company to carry out the work, but said he had asked Red Sky to maintain their service to Housing Executive tenants until that process was completed.

In response, the Housing Executive said it had received no written instructions relating to the matter.

On Monday, the chairman of the Social Development Committee Alex Maskey asked the minister to "come clean" about why he intervened in the dispute between the Housing Executive and Red Sky.

Mr Maskey said he wanted more details.

"His party has taken a very keen interest and a number of his senior colleagues have quite intensively met with and lobbied on behalf of this company," he said.

"This is very shaky legal ground and that is why I want the minister to come clean and give the public a full and transparent explanation of what is the basis of his intervention."

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