An investigation into grants awarded to the Ulster Camogie Council should have been treated as a fraud probe, according to yesterday’s report to the Northern Ireland Assembly by the NI comptroller and auditor-general, Kieran Donnelly.
Council chairperson, Catherine O’Hara has responded to revelations of financial impropriety by stating that it was the organisation’s current executive that drew attention to possible problems and that all unused funding had been repaid.
An investigation was carried out by the NI Assembly’s Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure after a claim was made that documentation used by the Ulster Council to claim money from the Northern Ireland Sports Council had been falsified, and that the money claimed was significantly greater than the expenses actually accrued.
The investigation revealed between 2000 and 2008, £48,502 (€58,000) was paid to the Ulster Camogie Council by the Sports Council.
"Of this, £14,754 (€17,724) has been deemed irregular because UCC were unable to provide evidence of associated expenditure" said Donnelly in his report. "This includes £1,690.50 (€2,030.83) relating to invoices that were allegedly falsified."
The report explains that it was the Camogie Association that identified the irregularities and repaid £5,469 (€6,570) in January 2008 on behalf of its Ulster branch.
Of the remaining £9,285 (€11,154.77), the Sports Council was able to vouch for £5,825 (€6,998) after the UCC produced bank statements and issued a clawback for the remainder, which has now been paid.
The auditor-general also criticised the Sports Council for continuing to pay grants to the Ulster Council, even though it did not receive audited accounts from them between 2004 and 2007.
O’Hara issued a statement in response to the report insisting that best practice was now being observed by Ulster Council and its executive.
"Ulster Camogie Council and its governing body, the Camogie Association, cooperated at all times with investigations into the use of Sport Northern Ireland funding by Ulster Camogie Council," said O’Hara.
"All amounts referred to in the report of the comptroller and auditor general have been repaid to Sport NI. Ulster Camogie Council has a new executive since 2007 and is working to achieve appropriate standards of excellence in governance."