McKee hits out over NIEA administration costs

Harold McKee
Harold McKee

Ulster Unionist Agriculture spokesperson Harold McKee MLA has revealed last year the NIEA spent 79.6% of its total operating costs on administration.

In response to an Assembly Question tabled by Mr McKee, it was confirmed that in 2015/16 there was over £31.6m spent on administration costs compared to only £8.1m on programme costs.

Mr McKee said: “Whether it is through inspections, or through the delays the body can cause in the planning system, many farmers have experienced what it is like dealing with the NIEA. As such many will not be surprised to learn that so much of its costs are spent on administration.

“Through an Assembly Question I have been able to able to reveal that the total proportion of operating costs spent on administration has increased from 54% in 2008 when the NIEA was first established, to 65% in 2014/15, reaching its highest ever recorded level of 79.6% in 2015/16.

“Whilst the NIEA, of course, incurs administrative costs, including paying some staff responsible for the benefit of the local environment, I am shocked that so little of its budget is being spent on actual programmes compared to previous years.

“The NIEA came under the management of three separate chief executives in what was clearly a turbulent 12 months for the agency. Unfortunately, last year the NIEA also only met two of its six key performance targets set by the then Environment Minister.”

Mr McKee added: “The NIEA needs to reassess its priorities and ensure that as much of its funding – which is primarily provided by the Northern Ireland Executive – is spent to the maximum benefit of the local environment and programmes created to support it, and not on excessive sums of administration.”