by Gareth Cross

A local councillor has expressed concerns that staff at a Derry recycling facility could be tempted to take 'cash incentives' to dispose of rubbish.

Independent councillor Paul Gallagher raised the issue at a meeting of Derry City and Strabane District Council's Assurance, Audit and Risk Committee at the Guildhall last week.

Councillors were discussing council's Risk Review process and received an update from a council officer on Council Service Risk Registers.

As part of the presentation councillors were told that one high-scoring risk had been identified in waste and environment management.

A council officer said that ‘this is related to the management of contractors engaged in the delivery of waste management contracts’.

"A high-level Internal Audit of Waste & Environmental Management is currently underway to be followed by detailed audits of sub-systems including waste management contracts," the officer said.

Cllr Gallagher said that the question of differences between waste management in the North and the South of Ireland had been 'brought up on a number of occasions'.

He told the meeting that there was a charge for waste disposal in the south and that there were concerns that waste could ‘end up here because of the charge’.

Cllr Gallagher said that ratepayer's in the North could be paying for the disposal of this rubbish.

Addressing his concerns, he said that staff at council's waste management facilities were at risk of being tempted by 'cash incentives' to dispose of rubbish.

He noted that this was not identified as a risk and asked the council officer: "How do we mitigate against this real potential risk?"

In response, the council officer said that this report only looked at 'high and critical risks' and told Cllr Gallagher she would refer the issue back to the Waste and Environmental Manager.

She said that a full list of risks associated with waste management could be brought to the next meeting of the committee.

The officer told Cllr Gallagher "there are hundreds of risks across all council areas and we can look for whatever you want to see".

Cllr Gallagher said that while there was one high risk identified on the register he 'fears there's more to tell'.

Chair of the meeting Sinn Fein councillor Eric McGinley noted a report had been brought in the past which looked at the number of people from the South using waste facilities in the Derry and Strabane area.

Cllr McGinley said it might be useful to look at it again for a 'sense of scale'.

Vehicle number plate recognition software was installed at recycling centres across the council’s waste facilities allowing it to capture information relating to who uses the site and how frequently.

A report was then brought back to council earlier this year which showed that 12 per cent of the vehicles using the Pennyburn recycling centre were from across the border, which was 1,442 cars out of a total of 9,934.

The report also showed the same result, 12 per cent, for the Brandywell recycling facility, where, out of 9,998 recorded vehicles, 1,290 were from the Republic of Ireland.

Meanwhile, the same report showed that only one percent of the vehicles using the council’s civic amenity site at the Glendermott Road were from across the border, with 189 southern registered vehicles recorded amongst the 9,995 vehicles which accessed the site.

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