Report by the Comptroller and Auditor General for Northern Ireland
Mr Kieran Donnelly, Comptroller and Auditor General (C&AG), today issued a report on the results of his audit of the 2011-12 accounts of the Northern Ireland Housing Executive.
The Northern Ireland Housing Executive (NIHE) is the regional housing authority for Northern Ireland and has a wide range of housing responsibilities including acting as landlord for housing stock of approximately 90,000 dwellings. The C&AG is required to report his audit opinion as to whether the annual financial statements of the NIHE give a true and fair view and also to confirm the regularity of transactions, that is, whether the expenditure and income in the year under examination has been properly spent in accordance with the rules governing such expenditure and the intentions of the Northern Ireland Assembly when it granted the money.
Key issues giving rise to the qualification of the audit opinion
Mr Donnelly has qualified his regularity audit opinion audit on the 2011-12 financial statements in relation to two issues:
- Estimated levels of fraud and error in Housing Benefit. The estimated overpayments due to fraud and error amount to £10.2 million out of total housing benefit of £558 million The figure of £558 million is based on the 2011 calendar year and represents the population on which the Standards Assurance Unit carried out its testing; the figure in the accounts is based on the Housing Benefit paid in the 2011-12 financial year and amounts to £603 million. – i.e. around 1.8% of total housing benefit payments. This is an issue on which the C&AG’s audit opinion has been qualified for a number of years.
- Monitoring of response and planned maintenance expenditure – NIHE spent £55 million in response maintenance expenditure and £107 million in planned maintenance expenditure during 2011-12. During the audit considerable problems were identified in relation to NIHE’s controls over work done by contractors on its response and planned maintenance programme. These concerns were considered to be significant enough to require a qualification of the C&AG’s regularity audit opinion in respect of both of these areas of expenditure (in 2010-11 the opinion was only qualified in respect of response maintenance expenditure). The C&AG will further report on this issue in his value for money report due to be published in September 2012
In addition, the C&AG has included a number of other issues in his report, not requiring a qualification of his audit opinion, which he considers need to be highlighted:
- Tenancy fraud, i.e. the possession of social housing tenancy by someone not entitled to it is seen as a major category of fraud in England and Wales but has not yet been addressed by NIHE;
- The recovery of housing benefit overpayments (net debt from these overpayments amounted to £14.4 million at March 2012);
- An update on investigations in relation to several questionable land deals undertaken over a number of years by NIHE; and
- Continuing concerns in relation to governance within the Housing Association sector as a whole as well as the latest position in relation to the inspections of these Associations by the Department for Social Development (DSD). In particular the C&AG raised concerns in relation to grants of £25.6 million paid to Housing Associations that had been suspended by DSD but which were allowed to be progressed as the schemes they related to were sufficiently advanced. The report does however acknowledge that the Housing Executive had additional checks in place before it made any such payments to suspended Housing Associations.
Notes for Editors
- Report by the Comptroller and Auditor General on the NI Housing Executive Accounts 2011-12
- The Comptroller and Auditor General is Head of the Northern Ireland Audit Office (the Audit Office). He, and the NIAO, are totally independent of Government. He certifies the accounts of Government Departments and a range of other public sector bodies. He has statutory authority to report to the Assembly on the economy, efficiency and effectiveness with which departments and public bodies use their resources. His reports are published as Assembly papers.
- Background briefing can be obtained from the Northern Ireland Audit Office by contacting Tomas Wilkinson (02890 251073), Anu Kane (02890 254301) or Brandon McMaster (02890 251077) for any queries relating to Part 4 of the Report.