By Jack Holland
Thousands of dollars in unauthorized expenses were charged by the top official at the Northern Ireland Tourist Board’s New York office, according to a report just released.
Close to _25,000 sterling in travel and hospitality claims were charged to an unauthorized company credit card that went unchecked for almost a year, the report by the Northern Ireland Audit Office revealed.
The North’s enterprise minister, Sir Reg Empey, came under immediate and intense pressure to act after the report’s findings were revealed.
According to initial reports, the NITB’s head office had demanded that an American Express card used by the New York office be scrapped.
However, the New York manager of NITB, David Boyce, subsequently claimed what has been described in reports as a “staggering” total of expenses on the card before any action was taken by the NITB’s finance department.
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The Northern Ireland Audit Office report revealed that half of the unauthorized expenses bill was submitted without any receipts. Some of the money was used for hotels, movies and spa services, according to the report.
The report also revealed instances in which consultancy work was awarded without public tender and salary hikes were paid to senior staff members without British government approval.
The report covers a period of time before the NITB was merged with the Republic’s Bord F_ilte into the joint body, Tourism Ireland.
A spokeswoman for Tourism Ireland had no comment to make on the report while Boyce was at meetings and unavailable for comment as the Echo went to press.