Independent Councillor Padraig McShane challenged Causeway Coast & Glens Council officials at the September meeting of the Audit Committee, accusing them of manufacturing the minutes and describing the organisation as being ‘in complete disarray’.
Referring to the minutes of the June Audit Committee meeting, the Glens councillor addressed the Chamber to inform them he had come ‘into possession of an audio recording’ of that meeting on June 9, 2021.
He said: “I stated at the time that I believed the democratic process was being undermined through the minutes.
“I made a proposal that was rendered useless by the exclusion of internal audit’s input into the meeting and the deliberate debasement of the minute when it concerned the actions of the CEO.
“Internal audit stated clearly and categorically three times – ‘I am progressing the investigation in line with the directive by the Chief Executive issued on May 26, 2021. The directive is in contravention to the outcomes and recommendations made by internal audit, the internal investigation and indeed, HMRC’.
“I followed up this statement with the following proposal: That the Chief Executive has nothing further to do with this investigation and that we follow the guidance of the organisations who expressed their views on how to proceed.
“The groups were internal audit, internal investigators and indeed HMRC.
“The CEO was the Chief Finance Officer of the organisation and ultimately responsible for the erroneous claiming of VAT from HMRC. It is preposterous that the CEO is allowed to influence an internal investigation.
“The adoption of the minutes by members points again to elected members being complicit in covering up issues of gross misconduct in this organisation or potential issues of misconduct.
“I’ve said since 2017 that I believe the minutes of this organisation appear to be tampered with for pre-ordained outcomes. The recording of that previous Audit Committee meeting would seem to evidence that.
“The issue as you all know is related to the potential VAT fraud of almost £95k from HMRC and is related to two sports organisations locally who I won’t name because obviously that was In Committee.
“It’s very, very important that the minutes are correct and reflect exactly what was said, it reflects the proposal. It’s not a verbatim minute, but to debase the minutes in a manner that it was, made the motion itself redundant and made it useless.
“It is a clear steer from someone within the organisation, I’m not pointing fingers, but someone within the organisation is making the minutes irrelevant.”
DUP Councillor Adrian McQuilln called a point of order quoting Standing Order 13.
“I’ll quote it here for you,” he said. “No discussions shall take place on the minutes except on their accuracy. This is not what we are doing, we are talking about VAT here so I don’t think we should travel down this road at this present minute in time.”
Responding, Councillor McShane said: “This conversation is about the accuracy of the minutes, your point of order is null and void.”
Committee Chair, Sinn Fein Councillor Dermott Nicholl permitted Councillor McShane to complete his comments.
“First of all I want what I said included in the minute that it did take place, that I do have a recording. I’ll obviously not be sharing it internally within the organisation because that has proved time and again to be a waste of time. What I will do with that recording is share it with an outside body which oversees this organisation or has the potential to oversee it because at the minute this organisation and the running of it is in complete disarray.”