Coronavirus: 'Honest error' with Covid-19 business support grants
The agency responsible for identifying eligible businesses for emergency Covid-19 support grants, which saw more than 4m paid in error, has defended its handling of the scheme.
About 450 payments were incorrectly issued by the Department for the Economy.
Land and Property Services (LPS), through the Department of Finance, was in charge of checking who qualified.
Its chief executive said the mistakes were the result of an "honest error".
The 10,000 payment was sent automatically to any business in receipt of small business rates relief but some were found to be ineligible, including 52 wind turbine owners.
Four Sinn Féin members resigned last month over a delay in returning 10,000 payments automatically made to three offices - MP and MLA constituency offices were not supposed to qualify for the scheme.
Some of the other mistakes uncovered include people receiving duplicate payments, getting 20,000 instead of 10,000.
被发现的其他一些错误包括人们收到重复付款，得到20000 GB而不是10000 GB。
Errors were also made in paying 57 landlords the grant rather than their tenants, who were the ones impacted by the Covid-19 restrictions.
Ian Snowden, chief executive of LPS, said officials had worked at pace to get the payments out to those in need at the time, and that efforts to recoup all outstanding funds are ongoing.
He told Stormont's finance committee he was satisfied that only three political offices had incorrectly received payments.
Mr Snowden also revealed that since the story first emerged on the Nolan Show, the number of grants paid back overall has risen to 90.
He explained the error had emerged by a piece of computer code written in to the system for identifying applicants.
He said that while handling the first batch of payments in late March, LPS had produced a list identifying all addresses of political offices to be flagged in a payment file and removed, but an "error in the syntax of code" meant while ineligible addresses were flagged, they were not removed from the list.
It was fixed when later batches of payments were being issued.
Mr Snowden said it would be "completely inappropriate to give any impression that this was incompetence - it was an honest error", he told the committee.
He said there was "enormous pressure" on LPS at the time payments were being made.
"With the benefit of hindsight it's easy to say you shouldn't have put an automatic batch of payments out, but if all of those had to be flushed through an application process, we would be at today's committee talking about 'why have you still not made all the payments after six months?'" he added.
The committee also heard that LPS is working to reclaim the funds through civil recovery processes, though it is not clear how long this could take.
The NI Audit Office has already said it will investigate how the scheme was managed.