UK Northern Ireland Events Company: Janice McAleese’s conduct ‘worst seen’ – auditor

Northern Ireland Events Company: Janice McAleese’s conduct ‘worst seen’ – auditor

Northern Ireland Events Company (NIEC) chief executive Janice McAleese
Northern Ireland Events Company (NIEC) chief executive Janice McAleese

The Northern Ireland Audit Office has described the conduct of a quango boss who covered up a £1.5m loss as the worst it has seen from a senior public official.

A report states Northern Ireland Events Company (NIEC) chief executive Janice McAleese was involved in fabricating documents provided to a government department and her board of directors.

Auditor General Kieran Donnelly said: “I am not aware of any other accounting officer failing so comprehensively to uphold the Nolan principles of conduct in public life.”

The PSNI is in the process of completing a criminal investigation.

Among the report’s findings was that there was “potentially” a £262,500 shortfall in gate receipts lodged in the NIEC’s bank account after four motorbike events between 2005 and 2007.

For another event, it said there was no evidence takings were lodged at all.

According to the report, “it is unclear what happened to the income”.

The Audit Office report also said Ms Aleese hid a personal relationship with a contractor who was paid £120,000 for a motocross bike event in Moneyglass, County Antrim.

There are “concerns over the authenticity of his invoices”, it said.

The NIEC was created to boost Northern Ireland’s image as a venue for high-profile sports and music events, like concerts at Stormont.

It was funded by the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure (DCAL), but collapsed in 2007 after its financial problems came to light.

Ms Aleese had resigned just months earlier, after four years in charge.

In 2008, the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment (DETI) launched an investigation which lasted six years and cost £1.2m.

It is currently considering director disqualification proceedings against Ms McAleese and NIEC board members.

The Audit Office said the board failed to provide adequate oversight, partly because of “the lack of financial skills and low attendance amongst some members”.

It said DCAL could have identified the problems “much earlier” if whistle-blower complaints had been better investigated.

The Audit Office report states the NIEC was technically insolvent in 2005, but a firm of accountants failed to detect it when it compiled its accounts.

The company has been referred by DETI to the body that regulates chartered accountants.

Ms McAleese was unavailable for comment.