Northern Ireland

NI Events Company: One of 'worst scandals since devolution'

The collapse of the NI Events Company quango has been described as one of the worst scandals since devolution.

The Public Accounts Committee at Stormont has published a damning report on the affair, after taxpayers were left to clear its £1.6m debts.

"The level of scandal is completely shocking," said the committee's chairperson, Michaela Boyle.

The PSNI is investigating what went on and, separately, NIEC board members are facing disqualification proceedings.

Image copyright Pacemaker
Image caption The company was behind events such as Elton John's 1998 concert at Stormont

This follows a five-year inquiry costing £1.2m.

"This debacle makes uncomfortable reading - the scale of the mismanagement was massive," Ms Boyle said.

The NI Events Company (NIEC) was formed in 1997 to support major sports and music events.

Image caption Janice McAleese resigned several months before the Northern Ireland Events Company collapsed in 2007

It was answerable to the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure (DCAL), whose oversight prior to its downfall in 2007 is described as being close to non-existent.

The department's then permanent secretary, Paul Sweeney, has already apologised and accepted responsibility for what happened.

Image caption The NIEC was created to boost Northern Ireland's image

The PAC report notes that no DCAL official has ever been disciplined.

The report said the NIEC board's performance "in key areas was extraordinarily weak" and questioned whether all its members were fully motivated.

The NIEC was the subject of an Audit Office report last September, with the conduct of its former chief executive Janice McAleese branded the worst it had seen from a public official.

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