The ‘abuse of procurement procedures’ and ‘thousands of pounds of contracts being given to buddies’ were just some of the accusations Independent Councillor Padraig McShane made during a meeting of Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council’s Audit Committee.
The Glens councillor stated he had proof that council officials were not following proper procurement processes when awarding contracts.
Following the presentation of the Audit Strategy 2021/22 for Causeway Coast and Glens Council by Colette Kane (Northern Ireland Audit Office), the Glens councillor referred to the strategy saying: “In the audit risk strategy itself, you mention on page 7, the management override of controls and procurement, that it has become clear that processes around procurement are being abused.
“By their very nature we can never prove that brown envelopes exchange hands for access to public funds but we can prove the conditions are being created and indeed exist to allow for abuse and that’s something I have been trying to do.
“Procurement has been abused since the inception of this new council and it has been reported annually on our audits and the Audit Office has made us aware of it as well.
“I have come into possession of evidence that officials within the organisation are giving thousands of pounds of contracts to buddies without going through procurement processes.
“They are actually ignoring the process and creating these conditions that lead to the perception that this organisation is somehow corrupt.
“That is happening and I do intend to share that information with the Audit Office and with the Department.”
Councillor McShane then spoke about the need for the Audit Office to look at council’s incoming strategy, claiming ‘staffing and absenteeism is a major issue’.
The Independent councillor accused council of having ‘two faces’ adding: “One, that on the face of it you would be delighted to be part of this organisation, it’s a wonderful organisation.
“We will have a report later in this meeting which outlines the efforts and initiatives this organisation and Human Resources are engaged in.
“In reality, the second face is the one the staff have to endure and that’s bullying, pressure, being exhorted to work outside the scope of one’s employment on occasion being asked to cover up or engage in practices that are wholly unethical or are completely at odds of good governance.
“Given how seriously the council claims to deal with mental health issues with all these wonderful initiatives and how seriously it takes them, clearly we are losing significantly more days to staff off because of mental health related issues in their employment.
“When I say that, it may look in our figures that the mental health figures are coming down but when you take the fact that so many of our people are working from home you could actually argue that the figures are going up and that it’s coming into work and coming into the employment place making these people sick.
“These mental health initiatives will only ever be useful when the abuse of staff ends. So we must look at the strategy and we must look at the relationship between our Human Resources and staff mental health. I feel at some point our Human Resources must proactively protect employees of this organisation.”