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Committee Voices Frustration at Department Delays

Synopsis: The Committee for the Office of the First Minister and deputy First Minister has expressed its frustration at the cancellation of a planned briefing to be provided by the Department at today’s meeting.

Session: 2013/2014

Date: 04 December 2013

Reference: COFMDFM 02/13/14

The Committee for the Office of the First Minister and deputy First Minister has expressed its frustration at the cancellation of a planned briefing to be provided by the Department at today’s meeting.

The Committee was due to hear from the Office of the First Minister and deputy First Minister on progress on Programme for Government commitments but received correspondence this morning stating that a briefing cannot be provided until a meeting of the Executive Programme Board comprising the First Minister, deputy First Minister and Minister of Finance and Personnel takes place and this meeting will not happen until early next year.

The Committee had previously requested quarterly updates on the Programme for Government but has not been briefed by OFMDFM since 3 July 2013.  This latest cancelled briefing had already been rescheduled at the request of the Department.

Committee Chairperson Mike Nesbitt MLA said “A key purpose of all Assembly committees is to ensure that Departments are delivering their services as planned. Committees have an important statutory duty to advise, assist and scrutinise Executive departments. The ability of this Committee to hold OFMDFM to account has been hampered by a series of departmental delays, postponements and long overdue responses to Committee queries.

“The Programme for Government is a fundamental issue which affects everyone in Northern Ireland and it is crucial that the Committee is given the opportunity to examine and measure progress on these commitments.

“How can a Committee or the public find out about progress against the Programme for Government priorities when even the updates on the Executive’s website are out of date?”

Deputy Chairperson Chris Lyttle added “The Committee is frustrated that briefings are cancelled at short notice and the Committee sometimes has to wait weeks or even months for OFMDFM to respond to Committee correspondence.  We have queries dating as far back as November 2012 which are still awaiting a reply.  These delays are unacceptable and despite the Committee’s best efforts to seek a resolution, we are again facing another impediment to the work of this Committee.”

ENDS

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