[Sinn Fein]

19th February 2003

Accountability issue central to function of Strategic Investment Body

Sinn Fein Mid-Ulster MLA Francie Molloy, former Chairperson of the Assembly Finance and Personnel Committee has said that the issue of accountability must be the central issue to the functioning of the Strategic Investment Body announced today by British direct rule Finance Minister Ian Pearson.

Mr Molloy said:

``Many people will be concerned at the apparent lack of accountability built into the Strategic Investment Body announced today by Ian Pearson. There is a danger that this body will not deliver best value for people living here but will be too heavily weighted in favour of big business interests that potentially stand to make millions out the function of the SIB.

``We should not forget that the legislation to set up this body was pulled on the last sitting day of the Assembly before the institutions were suspended by the British government by Mark Durkan and David Trimble because it was likely to be defeated. When Ian Pearson announced his intention to push ahead with this legislation through Westminster Sinn Fein warned him against rushing the legislation.

``Sinn Fein also made it clear to Ian Pearson, in both written submissions and directly, that while we welcome any initiative that can redress the infrastructural investment deficit within the North that such proposals must contain clear linkages to the democratic process and that accountability and full scrutiny must central.

``Sinn Fein support the concept of a Strategic Investment Body that can generate change and deliver of the infrastructural deficit. But if it becomes a device to centralise power; that takes unaccountable decisions outside of departmental priorities or that don't target social need then it becomes a very dangerous vehicle for replicating and reinforcing patterns of divisions and discrimination witnessed under previous British direct rule administrations.

``It is also a matter of deep regret that the community and voluntary sector and trade unions appear to have been excluded from the process leading up to the announcement of a interim Chief Executive. I would urge Ian Pearson to ensure that in recruiting a permanent chief to ensure that he fully engages with not just local political parties but also the trade unions and the community and voluntary sectors.

``The apparent use of the SIB announcement as a cover for further commitments to PFI and PPP disguises the fact that we have yet to hear satisfactory arguments against the use of alternative sources of funding.''

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