THE Auditor General has found significant financial control failures in the Ulster-Scots Agency and the Irish language body, Foras na Gaeilge. The report is somewhat overdue, since it refers to the first year of the two bodies’ operation, 2000.David Gordon reported:
Their key points include:
• An internal audit of the Ulster Scots Agency in 2001 found that internal controls were “largely non-existent” and “even the basics of regularity and propriety were absent”.
Mr Dowdall and Mr Purcell express “concern” at this finding and state that the boards of public bodies are “required to ensure that controls are in place”.
• Both the Ulster-Scots Agency and Foras na Gaeilge issued grants in 2000 without the payment arrangements having been formally approved by higher authorities. This was in breach of the legislation governing the two bodies.
• Foras na Gaeilge also did not have “substantiating documentation” in the year for grants worth £720,000.
There was a lack of invoices, inspection reports and audited accounts to demonstrate that the funding had been used by groups for the intended purposes.
• The two Auditor Generals also raise a legal query over overseas spending by the Ulster-Scots Agency. They believe that the legislation which established the body restricted its promotional work to the island of Ireland.
The Ulster-Scots Agency has funded a number of foreign trips including a £50,000 visit to the USA in April 2001, which involved most of its board members, as well as a photographer and five musicians.
The two state auditors have received assurances from both the language bodies that the shortcomings in their first year have been addressed, with new controls and procedures put in place.