Published Tuesday, 04 September 2012
The NIHE was left open to fraud and shoddy work. (© Getty)
A hard-hitting probe carried out by the Audit Office into multi-million pound deals said the HIHE did not sufficiently challenge poor work and left itself open to major losses.
Officials noted that the 2011 cancellation of contracts with Red Sky construction - worth an annual £7m - followed a series of investigations dating back to the mid 1990s.
"Based on our findings, and in the absence of concrete evidence to the contrary, we can only conclude that, for many years, there has been a very significant risk to value for money in response maintenance expenditure," the report said.
"Indeed, the weaknesses in assessment, reporting and management oversight of contracts, particularly at a high level within NIHE, left the organisation exposed to impropriety and fraud.
"While poor contractor performance had been evident to NIHE management for many years, the Audit Office found that the actions necessary to strengthen the contract management regime were not taken."
The report looked at the handling of £200m worth of contacts between 2006 and 2011.
It criticised the reporting of serious concerns within the NIHE - and said that only two of the 22 ongoing investigations into suspected fraud during 2010-11 had been raised formally with the Comptroller and Auditor General.
The office also claimed there is a perception that whistle-blowers did not always receive the protection required, making a series of recommendation on how this can be improved.
Meanwhile it found that senior management was resistant to negative internal audits and suppressed a critical report on the disposal of land.
Kieran Donnelly, Comptroller and Auditor General, said: "Over the five years to 2011, the Housing Executive has spent more than £200 million on response maintenance. My review found serious weaknesses in the management of the contracts governing this expenditure.
"However, I welcome the Housing Executive's acceptance of the recommendations contained in my report and its introduction of wide-ranging changes to deliver improvements.
"These are essential if tenants are to receive a quality service and taxpayers are to receive value for money.