New Northern Ireland Executive must improve financial management, CIPFA says

1 Mar 17
The governance of Northern Ireland’s public finances must be improved in order to avoid further political instability in the province, CIPFA has said.

Ahead of tomorrow’s elections to the Northern Ireland Assembly, the institute said the new executive formed after the vote must address several governance failures, which could lead to an overspend of public money. To avoid the same mistakes from being made, CIPFA set out a manifesto for governance improvements.

The election has been called after the power-sharing executive collapsed amid mismanagement of the Renewable Heat Incentive scheme, which was designed to promote the use of renewable energy. However, subsidies were not capped in the scheme and it has gone over budget – potentially by up to £485m.

The resignation of then deputy first minister Martin McGuinness and the failure of his Sinn Féin party to replace him in the executive led to new elections.

CIPFA stated that the newly-elected executive “must re-assert responsible and ethical governance principles”, and public service entities will need to be reviewed and monitored to ensure they have these interwoven into their behaviours and practices.
In its manifesto ahead of the polls, CIPFA also urged outgoing ministers to work with their replacements to set out strategic outcomes for public service bodies.

A full review of the available resources for public services, and how these can be best used to meet the needs of the population, must be undertaken. This should include an appraisal of the future funding needed to support the delivery of health and social care.

Don Peebles, the head of devolved administrations at CIPFA, said the Northern Ireland Executive’s public financial management “drastically needs to improve”.
He added: “It is time to put public services on the right financial footing again, as only through good governance can Northern Ireland deliver modern and progressive public services. Core principles have to be established that will protect those services from corruption and help the people of Northern Ireland regain confidence in public bodies and their leaders.

“The newly-elected assembly needs to put the public interest at the heart of its agenda straight away and keep it there as the foundation of its decision making going forward,” Peebles said.

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