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Friday, August 19, 2022

Peacock | ‘Recommendations of shocking audit office report on council land deals must be implemented’

Sinn Féin Councillor Leanne Peacock has said the findings of an audit office report on land deals carried out by Causeway Coast & Glens Council are ‘shocking’ and called for the recommendations to be implemented immediately.

The party’s council group leader has written to the other parties to take forward a proposal for the beginning of disciplinary actions against those involved.

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Councillor Leanne Peacock said:

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“The findings of the audit office report on land deals carried out by Causeway Coast & Glens Council are deeply shocking and disgraceful.

“This type of behaviour is totally unacceptable and will not be tolerated.

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“Actions need to be taken right away and the recommendations highlighted within this report implemented without any delay, not by waiting for an August council meeting.

“I have written the other party leaders on the back of this report to seek agreement to ask the Mayor to work with HR and initiate disciplinary proceedings against those involved.

“We have been raising these concerns for many years, but unionism, which has dominated this council, has blocked transparency and allowed a culture of cover-up and toxicity to continue within this council.

“Work must begin now to rebuild the public’s confidence in our council, that requires accountability and that must start with the immediate implementation of the auditor’s recommendations.”

Independent Councillor, Padraig McShane has also spoken after the release of the Audit office findings, saying:

“It is time to delivery the ‘coup de grace’ to seven years of misery for the ratepayers in Causeway Coast and Glens. That’s the clear and unequivocal message from this extraordinary audit to those members of the council who have previously swept findings of wrongdoing under the carpet.

“The audit from the NIAO is incriminating, ruinous and ultimately damning in its findings against Council members and senior officials. Yet it remains unsurprising to those of us who campaigned for the audit in the first instance.

“It is essential that the public realise this is only the ‘tip of the iceberg’ in terms of probable wrongdoing by senior officials. The audit was narrowly defined, focused and only looked at land and asset disposals. I presently retain obscene amounts of evidence on Financial irregularities, abuse of procurement processes, the removal of internal audit from an investigation after a damming finding on VAT, the widespread abuse of legal mechanisms, the systematic blocking of access to information and all these are only a small handful of the abuses that require further investigation.”

“I’ve called on the CEO to resign since 2019. Given the content and the nature of findings against this individual, I believe he should now be dismissed. There are three additional senior officials identified in the report who mislead the council and the audit office. Our policies and procedures are quite clear. The policies and procedures should be followed and the ratepayers of the borough should finally be afforded the protection they deserve.”

In conclusion Councillor McShane said: “The mismanagement of this organisation since 2015 has had a devastating impact on our levels of debt. While the extraordinary audit could cost £120’000 the cost to the ratepayers of lost revenue and abuse of process by senior officials has cost multi-millions. If the Council fail to act swiftly, then the department must intervene.

There are numerous people who helped bring this to fruition. They know who they are. But I particularly want to thank Ambrose Laverty for his expertise, wisdom and fortitude in assisting to make change for the people of the Borough.

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