Magherafelt council facing audit office scrutiny over building contracts

Magherafelt Council
Magherafelt Council

The Northern Ireland Audit Office is “considering” procurement procedures at the former Magherafelt council after it emerged design projects worth £22.75m were awarded to the same architects without going out to public tender.

The Irish News today revealed that these ventures included the high profile £4m design contract for the Seamus Heaney Centre in the poet’s hometown of Bellaghy.

Coleraine based W&M Given, was directly awarded design contracts for eight projects worth £22.75m by Magherafelt District Council between 1995 and 2014 - which included an extension to the council offices, a £1.6m contract for synthetic pitches at Meadowbank and the £2.2m construction of Maghera Leisure Centre in 2000.

The projects ranged in value from a £107,000 renovation of the Old Courthouse in Draperstown in 1999, to the £9.6m refurbishment of the Greenvale Leisure Centre in Magherafelt in 2010.

A spokesman for the Northern Ireland Audit Office said: “We are currently undertaking the 14/15 audit and procurement is one of the areas we will be considering.”

Between 1995 and 2014 Magherafelt District Council issued contracts for 14 building projects.

Design work on five of the schemes was carried out by council staff while the £5.5m Meadowbank Sports Arena contract was awarded to a firm other than Given in 2006.

A spokesperson for Mid Ulster council, which includes the former Magherafelt District Council area, said it would tender for such services.