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Minister to strengthen Leadership and Governance of Sport NI

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The DCAL Minister has today taken further steps to strengthen the leadership and governance of Sport NI, an arm’s-length body of the Department.

The Minister said: “In June last year a number of Sport NI employees alerted DCAL to their concerns about management, culture and HR practices within Sport NI. On the back of this, the Department commissioned DCAL’s Head of Internal Audit to undertake an investigation into the concerns which were raised.

“As a result of these concerns, in early July, I appointed an Interim Executive Leadership Team (IELT) to support the work of Sport NI, to bring forward a report and to reassure me that the organisation was fit for purpose. This coincided with the resignation of nine members of the Sport NI Board.

“The IELT developed an action plan to address the issues raised by Internal Audit. They arranged for a confidential and independent staff survey to be undertaken, to which some 80% of staff responded.

“There were some positive findings regarding teams, relationships with colleagues, line managers, motivation and equality. However, the survey confirmed the major issues of concern, including an absence of clear leadership and direction from the Board and Senior Management team, a situation which has improved recently but which requires urgent further improvement over the coming months. Importantly, nearly a third of staff said they had been subjected to bullying, harassment, victimisation or discrimination, a situation which clearly cannot continue. Overall the management of grievance processes has been poor and there has been evidence from the staff survey which indicates that Sport NI’s Dignity at Work Policy has not always been adhered to.

“The Team has now presented their report to me and I have given careful consideration to its findings. The report identifies a number of challenges and I am clear that we need to live up to our promises to staff that we will take action.

“I have discussed these findings with Brian Henning and Ian McAvoy. They both feel that the time is right for them to step down from their positions as Chair and Vice Chair respectively to make way for a new leadership team at Board level to implement the recommendations. I thank them for the commitment and passion to the furtherance of sport and for their hard work and dedication during their time as Board members.

“As an interim measure, I have appointed Brian Delaney to act as Interim Chair and Dr Catherine O’Mullan to act as Interim Vice Chair. I am also launching a public appointments process so that substantive appointments as Chair and Vice Chair can be made as soon as possible.

“I have today met the new Interim Chair, Interim Vice Chair and Board members to discuss further measures that they will wish to put in place to implement the recommendations of the Interim Executive Leadership Team. I have every confidence in the ability of the Board to provide leadership and good governance and its commitment to do so.

“I have also written to the staff of Sport NI and plan to meet them next week.

“There remain a range of challenges ahead for Sport NI. They have, however, many committed, hard working and resilient staff and that gives me confidence looking forward. My Department will continue to offer them every support. I am encouraged by the contribution to date of new Board members appointed in December and I am confident that Sport NI can move forward in a spirit of professionalism and dedication.”

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