Investigation into Tullyally group leads to clampdown

The Tullyally Resource Centre. INLS1114-140KM
The Tullyally Resource Centre. INLS1114-140KM

An investigation into the collapse of a community group in Tullyally has led to a new system of controls for publicly funded groups.

Tullyally and District Development Group Ltd ceased trading in 2012 after accumulating £100,000 in debts.

The group received most of its budget from the Department of Social Development and operated out of the local community centre, which was also forced to close its doors.

It has now emerged that an investigation by the Department was unable to secure any evidence to determine whether criminal activity has taken place, although a new system of controls have been introduced to “ensure that funded groups are meeting their obligations”.

The Social Development Minister Mervyn Storey responded this week to a query from West Tyrone UUP MLA Ross Hussey, who asked Mr Storey to “detail the results of the investigations into the Tullally and District Development Group.”

The Minster replied: “The investigation was unable to secure sufficient evidence to determine how much, if any, of the funds provided by the Department to pay for tax and National Insurance, were not properly expended.

“Furthermore, specifically pertaining to the matter of funds due to the HMRC, the investigation was unable to secure any evidence to determine whether criminal activity has taken place.

“As a result of this case and the risks around HMRC payments which have been highlighted by it, my Department has introduced a new system of controls to ensure that funded groups are meeting their obligations.

“Funded organisations are now asked to provide proof to the Department that HMRC payments are up to date by submitting either their most recent HMRC real time PAYE record showing payments and outstanding balances for funded employees or (if the organisation does not operate HMRC real time) bank statements and other relevant supporting documentation that shows HMRC payments have been made.”

UUP MLA Ross Hussey tabled his written Assembly Question in January this year and the Minister’s reply came earlier this week.

Mr Hussey’s question was lodged to the Minister as a follow up to a previous query he had raised back in 2012, shortly after the group’s dissolution.

Back then, he asked the then Minister, Nelson McCausland, whether “at any time prior to the dissolution of Tullyally and District Development Group, his Department audited the accounts of the group to ensure that proper procedures were followed to maintain an assets register and an account of spend of public money?”

Mr McCausland replied: “The Department seeks through rigorous procedures to ensure value for money whilst protecting public funds. The Planning and Governance Unit within the Department performs Financial Systems and Control Assessments (FSCAs) to determine the amount of vouching required in support of claims for payment.

“Payments from the Department cannot be drawn down without the relevant vouching therefore public monies are adequately protected.

“An investigation is ongoing to establish the full facts of this group’s situation. It would not be appropriate to comment further in advance of the outcome of the investigation.”

The group announced in January 2012 that it was dissolving. A report later that year, in July, found that people living in Tullyally were largely in agreement that the closure of the local community centre had a detrimental effect on the local area.