Councillor Stephanie Quigley responds to Extraordinary Audit

Councillor Stephanie Quigley responds to Extraordinary Audit

Statement from Councillor Stephanie Quigley :

"It is with mixed emotion that I read the NIAO Report on the Causeway Coast and Glens Council Land Sales and Transfers.  The document, detailing the failings within governance, transactions and behaviour of Senior Council Officers, came as no surprise, yet to see it in print, available in the public domain, is a palpable relief.  The relief is tempered with concern though as I acknowledge there is still an important question to answer - are the Council finally going to do what we should have done 4 years ago?

"The report refers time and time again to ‘significant governance failings. As a Councillor, I had realised a long time ago that information was being deliberately withheld. In a culture that ensured the information presented to Council was either inaccurate, inadequate, or unreliable, the Council members were unable to make informed decisions.

"The Report refers to the ‘inadequate challenge and oversight by Elected Members’. This led to bitter divisions within the Council chamber as calls for clarity and transparency from Independent Councillors, such as myself, were hampered through old, embittered party lines.

"Inside Council Chambers, we were silenced, bullied, and ostracised, and publicly we were slandered as troublemakers, as the abusers were cleverly portrayed as the victims.

"The much-repeated line in the Audit that has the most impact on me simply reads, ‘the conduct of some Senior Council Officers fell well short of expected standards.’ The Report lists a culture full of seemingly unlawful transactions, with perceived conflicts of interest, knowingly acting against the advice of its own Legal Officers, with the arrogance to not only hide the information from the Elected Councillors but also then in turn to the Audit Office.

"I cannot emphasise enough the culture from the top that not only permits but encourages this behaviour is one that needs to come to an end. The only way to survive this culture has been to become complicit, for standing against it is full of severe personal and professional risks, as I am only too aware of.

"To quote the Executive Summary, ‘There are cultural and behavioural issues which underlie many of the matters highlighted in this report. The resolution of these issues will require strong leadership and a willingness and commitment from Members and Officers. My review has identified clear evidence that the behaviour of some Senior Council Officers has fallen short of the standards expected of employees in a public body. In considering the extent of serious and concerning behaviour by Senior Council Officers I consider this should be dealt with through the Council and/or professional body processes.’

"It has been unfortunate, that the only way to bring this to the public domain, has been an expensive, external, Extraordinary Audit. And therefore, my challenge remains to my fellow Elected Councillors.

Concluding the statement said "Is this now sufficient evidence to put an end to the complicitous behaviour and start to bring about change within the Council Chamber? As elected representatives, our first and foremost duty is to protect the ratepayers and the public purse. Upon reading this Audit, no one will now be able to claim they do not have the facts with which to make informed decisions."

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