Northern Ireland

Leak over financial collapse of quango 'embarrasses' Stormont

A leaked report on the financial collapse of a quango caused "considerable embarrassment" to Stormont, the BBC has learned.

The Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure (DCAL) began an investigation after a 2008 leak about the demise of the Northern Ireland Events Company.

It folded with debts of £1.6m after irregular loans and payments were uncovered.

The confidential report prepared for DCAL was leaked to the BBC.

The department's permanent secretary wrote in a memo that he was "appalled" by the leak, but its investigation into how it came about proved inconclusive.

In other internal correspondence, he stated: "The leaking of this draft report has caused considerable embarrassment to the Northern Ireland administration, not least because the draft report was private and confidential."

Went wrong

Another civil servant asked if a court order should be considered to limit further coverage.

In a separate email, the permanent secretary was told: "I am sure the political aftermath of what happened will be difficult, as now the public seem to have heard more of what was going on than the executive, Public Accounts Committee etc."

At the time, some MLAs asked whether DCAL was trying to cover up who was at fault for what had happened at the Events Company.

Details of how DCAL reacted to the leak are contained in material released in response to a Freedom of Information request made last July.

After more than 170 working days, information was disclosed despite civil servants recently asking minister Carál Ní Chulín to consider blocking it.

A full-blown inquiry into what went wrong at the Northern Ireland Events Company is still going on - after five years - and is due to report later this year.

Last year, MLAs were told it was costing about £1m.

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