Page last updated at 13:16 GMT, Tuesday, 3 July 2012 14:16 UK

NI Housing Executive

The Northern Ireland Housing Executive (NIHE) is failing its tenants and taxpayers, Social Development Minister Nelson McCausland told the assembly, on 3 July 2012.

Mr McCausland is to introduce special measures, but warned more radical change could be on the way.

It follows an independent report on multi-million pound maintenance contracts.

He said the NIHE's tenants were "not getting the services expected or being paid for by the taxpayer" and half of jobs had anomalies, which included sub-standard work and over-charging.

The minister cited one example where contractors had claimed payment for more doors than existed in a house.

New accountability measures will see the NIHE more closely watched by the Department for Social Development (DSD), including fortnightly reports on areas of concern and more frequent meetings.

"I believe that the Northern Ireland Housing Executive as an organisation has failed to date to demonstrate the required response to known shortfalls in contract management," he said.

"This is a challenge to the board and the management team to show the required leadership, drive and determination to deal with these issues.

"One of the critical questions I will be asking is how did these failings occur, and what was the culture and practice in the Housing Executive that allowed this to happen, and indeed continue, for so many years."

He also said he intended to revisit the future of public housing in the autumn.

"I hope to make a statement when the assembly returns that will set forward my vision for new housing structures in Northern Ireland that will improve delivery and services for tenants and the taxpayer.

"One thing is clear to me; it is time for change, urgent change."

Mr McCausland also referred to the resignation of NIHE chairman Brian Rowntree on 29 June saying it "was entirely a matter for him" but he was "surprised at the timing".

Mr Rowntree had earlier written an email to his staff referring to "personal stress" and "a challenging relationship" with the DSD.

Social Development committee chairman Alex Maskey said he would await the full NIHE response but was concerned about the "vast sums of public money" involved.

"There has been a culture that the responsibility does not appear to lie anywhere," he said.

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