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NI Audit Office slams conduct of events company boss as ‘worst seen’

THE conduct of a quango boss who covered up £1.5m in losses has been damned by the NI Audit Office as the worst it has seen from a senior public official.

The auditor’s report found that Northern Ireland Events Company chief executive Janice McAleese was involved in fabricating documents provided to a government department and her board of directors.

The company was responsible for staging feel-good events including concerts – at one point graced by Elton John – and sporting events.

Among the auditor’s findings was that there was “potentially” a £262,500 shortfall in gate receipts lodged in the events company’s bank account after four motorbike events between 2005 and 2007.

It also emerged McAleese hid a personal relationship with a contractor who was paid £120,000 for a motocross bike event in Moneyglass, County Antrim.

There are “concerns over the authenticity of his invoices”, it said.

In the case of another event, there was no evidence that takings were lodged at all, the report found.

According to the report, “it is unclear what happened to the income”.

The company was founded in order to improve Northern Ireland’s standing as a world-class venue for concerts and sports and funded by the Department for Sports, Arts and Leisure. However, it folded after its financial issues surfaced in 2007. McAleese resigned shortly afterward.

In 2008, the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment (DETI) launched an investigation which lasted six years and cost £1.2m. Director disqualification proceedings are currently being considered against McAleese and her fellow board members.

The Audit Office found the board failed to provide adequate oversight, in part due to “the lack of financial skills and low attendance amongst some members”.

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