It is very concerning that the Department for the Economy's accounts for 2019/20 have been qualified, comments SDLP economy spokesperson, and Foyle MLA, Sinéad McLaughlin.
The Foyle MLA commented: "The Auditor has reported that support of £13.5m paid under the Small Business Grant Scheme may have gone to ineligible businesses. This is very concerning. There have been many businesses in Northern Ireland in desperate need of financial help, but were unable to access it. We now learn that perhaps £13.5m was paid to businesses that were not entitled to help, despite declaring that they were. I hope that officials will be able to recover these payments made in error.”
"I have called for a further review of support available from the Northern Ireland Executive and departments for businesses here. The major support programmes such as furlough and the self employment income support scheme are provided by the UK government and the big gaps in help are therefore the responsibility of the UK government. However, I am still keen that the Executive does all that it can to support businesses in as fair and efficient manner as possible."