NICVA asks Public Accounts Committee to keep the pressure on bureaucracy changes
The meeting, held at NICVA, was convened to begin the PAC enquiry into the 2010 Northern Ireland Audit Office report Creating effective relationships between government and the voluntary and community sector. In his opening remarks, PAC Chairman Paul Maskey MLA said the aim of the session was to "celebrate the achievements of the voluntary and community sector and enhance the valued relationship between government and the sector.”
During the three hour session, PAC members grilled DSD Permanent Secretary Will Haire, Maeve Walls Head of Voluntary and Community Unit (VCU) and Gordon Bell also from the VCU, on the content of the report and the reality of the relationship between government and the sector. Topics discussed included delays in beginning the register of charities, changes to funding in the Regional Infrastructure Programme, dormant accounts, the development of the concordat, the need for full cost recovery, the impact of short term funding, levels of governance and financial management in the sector, sustainability of organisations, the difference between community and voluntary organisations, the government funding database and the neeed to reduce bureaucracy.
Speaking on behalf of voluntary and community organisations, Seamus McAleavey said that the sector was not trying to avoid accounting for public money, but that monitoring and reporting needed to be proportionate and effective. He went on to say that current arrangements were often stifling for groups. Seamus added that the Action Team on Bureaucracy which was recently established to implement one of the committments in the Concordat, was a good place to begin this work but that political pressure from the PAC would be vital to ensure real action on this issue.
Closing the meeting, Chairman Paul Maskey MLA said that, in line with usual practice, the Committee would be agreeing a number of recommendations with the Department of Social Development and seeking a progress report on the recommendations within a specified timescale.
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