The Executive Office (TEO), led by the First and Deputy First Ministers, is legally obliged to pay compensation to the victims but has faced criticism over delays.
In 2017 the Historical Institutional Abuse (HIA) inquiry found there was widespread abuse of children in 22 NI homes from 1922 to 1995.
Last year a High Court judge ruled that TEO was acting unlawfully in delaying compensation for injured Troubles victims; the legislation came on to the statute book in January 2020.
Kieran Donnelly, head of the Northern Ireland Audit Office, said yesterday that TEO’s accounts for 2020-21 estimated the costs for both schemes at £539m – £105m for Troubles victims’ payments and £434m for HIA.
However, due to the lack of historic data, he said TEO could not give assurances its estimates were reliable.
As a result, he said, TEO agreed to remove the estimates from the 2019-20 accounts and insert them as notes to the accounts instead.
Mr Donnelly said: “TEO was unable to provide me with sufficient evidence to provide assurance that these estimates were reliable.” He added: I have recommended that TEO continues to seek information relevant to these schemes and to refine the models they are developing to support the reliable measurement of future probable payments under these schemes. I will monitor progress on this issue and consider any implications for the audit of the Annual Report and Accounts for 2020-21.”
However major concerns were last night raised about the delay in paying the compensation out.
SDLP MLA Colin McGrath, chair of the Stormont TEO Committee, said victims and survivors have been waiting for “far too long” for payments under the schemes.
“It is important that the Executive Office has accurate modelling that can identify resource requirements across both schemes and that budgeting reflects the scale of additional resource required,” he said. “We cannot be left in a situation further down the line where we have resource allocation difficulties. The Department needs to follow the advice of the Auditor General urgently.”
Fellow committee member UUP MLA Mike Nesbit said he pressed officials on the estimated figures when they were shown to the committee some months ago.
“It was clear from the evidence of officials that the funds set aside for these victims would not be spent in the financial year,” he said.
“I note the Audit Office saw that as not representing appropriate accounting procedures. I saw it as creating false hope and expectation among victims and survivors of both institutional abuse and the Troubles.”
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