|Project:||The Social Investment Fund: An Assessment|
RCS were appointed by BBC Spotlight to assess the quality of decision making and governance in relation to the Northern Ireland Social Investment Fund (SIF). The SIF is an £80m+ innovative community development programme with declared objectives to tackle complex and deep seated issues of exclusion, unemployment, and poverty in Northern Ireland. It was established to be ‘community led’, and regional Steering Groups (SGs) in areas of need should determine local plans and priorities in light of locally determined criteria and community consultation. The SGs comprise local community representatives, politicians, and council and NI Government officials. The SIF has been the subject of public controversy and concern. This has centred around the extent to which SIF priorities (and associated project fees) in some SGs may be determined by a close and potentially unhealthy nexus between the DUP and Sinn Fein as parties of Government, local politicians from those parties, and community organisations publicly known to have close association with them.
Specific areas of concern included:
- The composition of the SGs
- The selection of the SG members
- The character and extent of interconnection between politician and community representative members on the SGs
- The quality of decision making
- Conflicts of interest
We conducted an extensive documentary review of the SIF’s processes and procedures against appropriate standards of governance and good practice, and produced a detailed report which identified important areas of weakness. The report was the basis for the cornerstone interview for a BBC Spotlight programme broadcast on 10th October 2017.