Politicians must act on audit report

By Staff Reporter

Hardly a week passes without two themes asserting themslves in the pages of this newspaper: the tough times being experienced by ordinary families in the teeth of this gruelling recession and, conversely, appalling waste of taxpayers monies by public bodies.

This week is no exception in relation to the economy — indeed, SDLP MLA Conall McDevitt has his own take on the economic challenges across this page.

However, more shocking is the latest revelation by the Audit Office in relation to the outrageous waste of public monies. The most recent case to come under the Audit Office microscope is the failed Bioscience and Technology Institute, originally to be located at the City Hospital but which ended up earmarked for a dockside building named Harbourgate.

Set up in 1998 to help companies specialising in biotechnology, the Institute was a dead duck from the word go. An expensive dead duck.

However, not all those involved in the project lost out, according to the Audit Office.

It emerges that £100,000 was paid in a finders’ fee in connection to the Harbourgate building. The audit report reveals £25,000 of this went to one of the institute’s board members, Teresa Townsley. She did not tell any of the other board members about this payment which went into an overseas bank account controlled by Mrs Townsley and her husband. Mr and Mrs Townsley’s accountancy firm MTF also provided services to the board and received £152,000.

As ordinary workers take to the streets today to defend their pensions, it’s hard not to come to the conclusion that the 99 per cent have borne the brunt of the economic recession while the one per cent have carried on regardless, being assured of sinecures and generous payments from the public coffers.

If politicians want to maintain credibility, they need to act swiftly to demonstrate that they empathise with the common five-eights taking strike action today.

Otherwise, the conviction will grow that there are two different approaches for different categories of society: one for those in the board rooms; another for those like teachers and nurses who are at the very coalface of our society.

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