Thursday, 24 April 2014

Watchdog slates housing repairs service

The Northern Ireland Housing Executive has been slated for management and accountability failings that have dogged its repairs and maintenance services.

A damning report published by the Northern Irish Government’s public accounts committee today said the NIHE ‘failed in its duties’ to properly manage contracts for repairs works.

It was also critical of the Department for Social Development, which is responsible for overseeing the NIHE, which it said was unaware of many of the problems within the organisation.

The PAC said contracts were inappropriate and out of date, staff were ill-equipped to manage contracts and repairs jobs were not being inspected to make sure they were carried out properly. It said it was ‘very likely’ that performance data for contractors was being manipulated.

Michaela Boyle, chair of the PAC, said: ‘We know that most NIHE staff overseeing those businesses contracted to respond to maintenance needs are diligent and hard working.

‘However, we found that the management and oversight of this service has been abjectly poor – so poor that it calls into question the capability and competence of management within the NIHE over many years, particularly at a senior level.

‘We would even go so far as to say that it would appear that some members of senior management actively undermined the systems of control that had been put in place.’

The report said the NIHE discouraged staff from raising concerns.

The PAC published a list of 10 recommendations for the NIHE to act upon, including launching an investigation into weaknesses in contract management and forcing the senior management team to tell staff that the organisation is ‘not a cold place’ for whistleblowers.

The NIHE declined to comment on the report.

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