The Northern Ireland Audit Office representative presented the above report, a copy of which had been previously circulated to Members. She advised that the purpose of the report was to seek Members’ endorsement of the Northern Ireland Audit Office’s Audit Strategy for Derry City and Strabane District Council for 2018/19.
The report included a significant risk identified by the Northern Ireland Audit Office in respect of the City of Derry Airport.
In response to concerns raised by Councillor Gallagher, regarding the financial position of the City of Derry Airport, the Lead Assurance Officer confirmed that the figure of 7 months which Councillor Gallagher had quoted was the period of time for which the recently negotiated tender was valid for. She confirmed that 88% of the funding had been secured for the City of Derry Airport Public Service Obligation Route from the Department for Transport for the period starting May 2019 and ending May 2021. She further confirmed that the remaining 12% of the funding had been confirmed by the Department of the Economy (DFE) for the period beginning May 2019 and ending May 2020. She advised that Officers were working closely with DFE Officials to secure the funding for year 2 of the contract.
After Councillor Gallagher re-enforced his concerns, the Chair and the Lead Assurance Officer reiterated 88% of funding had been secured for 2 years and 12% of funding had been secured for 1 year.
Councillor Gallagher expressed his concern for the impact the possible failure to secure this 12% of funding could have on the rate payer.
Councillor Reilly stated that Councillor Gallagher needed to be clear about his interpretation of information when making statements surrounding the City of Derry Airport. He suggested that Councillor Gallagher had a negative attitude in relation to supporting the Airport.
Councillor Donnelly stated that Councillor Gallagher was entitled to his opinion on the situation with the airport and was carrying out his job responsibilities in questioning elements such as funding. He suggested that the SDLP should concentrate on local issues such as the City of Derry Airport rather than wasting resources on supporting Mark Durkan with his Fine Gael ambitions. He also expressed sympathy with Members of the public who had lost money due to the recent demise of Fly BMI.
Councillor Hastings highlighted the importance of the Airport for the City. He stated that he felt Councillor Gallagher was electioneering and he felt Councillor Gallagher would like to close the airport which was an important asset to the City.
Alderman McClintock expressed her endorsement of the report and her agitation at Councillor Gallagher’s continued negativity surrounding the Airport. She praised Officer’s for their quick response in dealing with the failure of the airline.
Councillor Duffy voiced that she felt Councillor Gallagher’s behaviour in relation to the airport was disingenuous. She suggested that he should read papers before each meeting as he failed to understand the Lead Legal Assurance Officer twice.
Councillor Gallagher upheld his concerns and questioned the impact of the loss of 12% of funding in term of pound notes. He called for more transparency in relation to this issue.
Councillor Hastings expressed concern that inaccuracies quoted by Councillor Gallagher affected the forward momentum of the Airport.
Recommended that Council endorse the contents of the NIAO’s Audit Strategy.