HE Response Maintenance Contracts Cause Concern
|Social Development Minister Nelson McCausland has spoken in the Northern Ireland Assembly about concerns identified about the Housing Executive’s (HE) management of response maintenance contracts.
The Minister told the Assembly that his predecessor Alex Attwood had commissioned a review of governance in the Housing Executive following concerns raised. On coming into office Minister McCausland expressed concerns about the issue of contract management, both on foot of briefing on the governance review findings and implementation, and on the issues leading to the termination of the Red Sky contract in July 2011.
Minister McCausland told the Assembly: “In light of my continuing concerns that the issues which led to the termination of the Red Sky contract by the Housing Executive may be present in other contracts I asked that a forensic investigation was carried out of a sample of Housing Executive maintenance contracts to provide me with assurances in relation to the other contracts, the quality of services to tenants and the proper use of public funds.
“This investigation, which began in October 2011, identified sufficient issues of concern to move into a second more detailed phase. The first draft of this report has now been received and highlights:
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•Quality of workmanship
•Invoices submitted by contractors
•Completion of work on a timely basis
•Duplicate SOR (Schedule of Rates) codes
“I am also aware that the Northern Ireland Audit Office, following significant concerns raised by whistleblowers, MLAs and the media, had decided to examine the Housing Executive’s management of response maintenance contracts and this report is due to be published later this year.
“In fact, the Housing Executive’s own Repairs Inspection Unit, identified that eleven of the 12 reports they prepared contained a negative rating, and themselves highlighted issues of poor workmanship and inaccurate charging.
“What does this mean for tenants in their homes?
“The findings in the draft forensic investigation report therefore give me grave cause for concern in relation to the Housing Executive’s management of response maintenance contracts and their ability to respond to these issues, particularly as the Housing Executive disburse and are accountable for huge sums of public money – some £600million, of which just over £170million is spent on maintenance. This reinforces the types of concerns which the NIAO has noted in its work and most importantly the findings from the Housing Executive’s own internal assurance teams.
“I will be copying this draft report to the Housing Executive for comment, and will ask that they consider the issues raised and respond to me as soon as possible.
“I must therefore take immediate action to ensure that the Housing Executive deals effectively with these issues and that this situation does not continue, particularly following the awarding of the new contracts on 1 August 2012.”
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