Invest Northern Ireland Response to Statement by Comptroller and Auditor General

Invest Northern Ireland has today issued a statement in response to the report of the Controller and Auditor General (C&AG) of the Northern Ireland Audit Office.

The C&AG’s report disclosed that the 2002-2003 Invest NI accounts will be qualified because “insufficient evidence was available . . . on the recording, monitoring and use of funds by third party organisations (TPOs).”

Commenting on this, Leslie Morrison, Chief Executive of Invest NI said: “Invest NI takes very seriously its responsibilities in the area of corporate governance and value for money in the use of public funds and is committed to ensuring the highest standards. Following the release of the report covering the investigation into the operations of Into the West (Tyrone and Fermanagh) Ltd, Invest Northern Ireland instigated a review of the contractual relationships with a number of third party organizations which were inherited by Invest NI on its establishment, having previously been managed by its predecessor agencies.

“We identified a number of areas of potential concern regarding administrative control and potential conflicts of interest. New guidance has been developed and introduced and Invest NI has established an additional Audit and Control function to further reinforce safeguards on the use of public funds by monitoring spending through Third Party Organisations. Also, in accordance with the C&AG’s recommendations, Invest NI is in the process of developing an appropriate risk based inspection programme. It is expected that this will be implemented in this financial year.

“Invest NI will, in accordance with normal practice, continue to report relevant matters to the Northern Ireland Audit Office.

“The Annual Report and Accounts for our first year will show that the agency made a considerable impact on the Northern Ireland economy, despite the difficult global economic backdrop.

“In the financial year 2002/2003 Invest NI offered financial support of £146 million to local companies, universities and organisations leveraging an overall investment commitment of £605 million. We also secured 10 inward investment projects worth £22 million and exceeded our targets in several areas including new business starts, and participation in business improvement schemes.

“This initial success which underlined that the agency is more than the sum of its predecessor organisations, IDB, LEDU and IRTU, was further built on in our second year and Invest NI-supported investment in the local economy has now exceeded £1 billion,” he concluded.