“This is just the latest example of the (First) Minister(s) failing to spend monies…”

A slight variation on Alex Maskey’s excoriation of Nelson McCausland for failing to spend a cool £26 million in his housing budget last year. [Tail gunner out of control captain! – Ed]  Did no one tell Alex his own party  in OFMdFM failed to spend a single penny of £80 million on actual social need in the two years since the last election.

Nearly 1/2 million is already gone on consultants, and they are handing back £15 million unspent. Deadlocked over whether it is to go to Catholics or Protestants, apparently. David McNarry with the shaming details yesterday in Stormont:

David McNarry MLA, UKIP Leader in Northern Ireland, revealed that £389,847 from the Social Investment Fund has gone to consultants and not a penny has gone to the community.

Mr McNarry said : “ I asked the Office of the First Minister and deputy First Minister to detail the outlay of funding from the Social Investment Fund to date; and to list the parties in receipt of those funds.” (AQW 26377/11-15) The answer surprised me to say the least. It appears £389,847 from the Social Investment Fund has gone to consultants. These are RSM McClure Waters, Wallace Consulting, Deloitte, Copious Consulting and the Central procurement Directorate. Not a penny has gone to the community.”

“It gets even worse. The £80 million originally set aside for the Social Investment Fund has been reduced to £60 million with £15 million capital not being required in this financial year. The OFMdFM website proudly announces ‘The Social Investment Fund (SIF) was set up to deliver social change. It aims to make life better for people living in targeted areas by reducing poverty, unemployment and physical deterioration. The fund will run until March 2016 and has been allocated £80 million by the Northern Ireland Executive.’ What a disappointment. Are they really telling us that there is no need for urgent spending on poverty and unemployment?”

Pity the poor old press office at OFMdFM who judging by an official statement on the BBC News site are not being told the exact details of how matters will proceed from here:

“We understand that OFMDFM is in the process of reprofiling the funding requirements associated with the Social Investment Fund and it will be for the executive to consider the implications of that work”

Jude seems happy to blame the DUP on the basis that Sinn Fein have said they want the money to be directed according to need, and erm, the DUP have said nothing (though they have initiated a discussion on social development this afternoon at Stormont.

Well, he has a valid point. £80 million in investment cash is a lot of money to sit on for two years with no explanation forthcoming.  Although I’d want see something a little more than a soundbite to substantiate why OFMdFM have taken all this time to get precisely nowhere in all of that time.

Speaking almost a year ago Jeffrey Donaldson when talking about the Social Investment Fund noted that:

The public and political will is too often frustrated or killed by process or procedure. This is not unique to Northern Ireland but commonplace across Western democracies.

When an elected official is less able to act on the public will the motivation for the public to vote declines. Northern Ireland should be in the vanguard of pushing back against this. We must reduce the bureaucracy and rebuild the power of democratic politics.”[emphasis added]

Best bet is that the money has been snaffled by that attritional grind of process favoured by both of Northern Ireland’s biggest parties in which journeying fruitlessly matters more than ever arriving.

Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty