NI Audit Office finds conflicts of interest in horse breeding

20 Apr 00
In 1997, the then-Department of Agriculture for Northern Ireland (Dani) backed the wrong horse when it agreed to pay a company called Irish Sport Horse Genetic Testing Unit Ltd in Co Fermanagh up to £3.2m for 'implementing an innovative horse-breeding pro

21 April 2000

John Dowdall, head of the Northern Ireland Audit Office, said this was one of a number of projects receiving a 'Peace and Reconciliation' grant where conflicts of interest were discovered. An NIAO report said: 'In some cases, these involved substantial amounts of Peace and Reconciliation grant money going to parties in which board members had an interest.'

The NIAO discovered that the chief executive of the company, who came direct from the agriculture department with a severance package, was appointed without advertising or competition. Her husband's firm was awarded contracts by the company, and payments were also made to a veterinary practice in which another board member was a partner.

Spotlighting 'serious weaknesses', the NIAO report found 'an insufficient division of responsibilities between those who developed this project and those who approved it'. The project is described as 'unviable' once the funding runs out in December.


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