£1.8m tax bill for 19 years of empty offices

A new report by the Stormont Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has revealed that taxpayers have had to foot a £1.8million bill for rental of offices in Campsie Northern Ireland that were never occupied in the 17 years that they were leased by the Industrial Development Board (IDB); since succeeded by Invest Northern Ireland.

The IDB signed up to 25 year leases in 1991 and 1992 on offices in Campsie that were never used. The leases contained an option to end the tenancy after four years however this was not taken up and the leases were terminated in 2008 and 2010 by Invest Northern Ireland.

Chair of the PAC said that the government and the taxpayer had been burdened with these "white elephants" for the last 19 years and blamed an absence of risk management for the four year option to break the leases being missed. He also criticised the lack of an inquiry into why the lease break option was missed saying it would have taught valuable lessons and perhaps identified individuals responsible for negligence or misconduct.

The report also criticised Synergy e-Business Incubator (ScBI) in West Belfast for shortcomings in risk management and project management, record keeping and performance monitoring, and also considered the jobs created by the program to have been a poor return on the £1.2million investment.

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