The Odyssey arena has been in the news over the past few days following the cancellation of the One Direction concert earlier in the week. The late announcement was heavily criticised. Following the earlier cancellation the Odyssey trust, who is the parent company that own the arena, decided to postpone the Belfast Giants- who are also owned by the Odyssey trust- hockey game tonight (Friday October 23) in order that the concert could take place.
The decision to cancel the Ice Hockey game has caused much annoyance amongst Ice Hockey fans and especially those from Sheffield who had booked transport for the game. Despite this, the Odyssey trust refused to appear on the Nolan show to explain this decision. This is in stark contrast to the willingness of the group to put forward spokesmen when things are going well.
The Odyssey complex was built using a huge amount of public money. From 1997 until 31 March 2009 the group accounts showed that they received a whopping £90 million in public funds. The parent company, Odyssey trust, is a registered charity and therefore receives many benefits from that status and effectively benefits from public money. The trust’s mission statement says they aim to;
“establish, hold, manage, safeguard and develop the investment in the Odyssey Project for the benefit of all the people of Northern Ireland.”
In a report into the Odyssey trust, carried out in 2010, it was found that the group had expended £55m since its incorporation in 1998 until 31 March 2009. Startlingly the report also found that £6.4m of this had been spent on “miscellaneous expenses”. At well over 10% of the total expenditure, this is an enormous amount of money to spend on “miscellaneous expenses”. What these expenses were, or who benefited, is not known!
Further to the whopping £6.5m wrote off under “miscellaneous expenses”, up until 31 March 2009 the trust had also spent £21m on “estate management” and “establishment expenses”. This enormous expenditure for account headings without any sub-analysis raises serious questions, and for a charity- which had received huge amounts of public money- to be spending so lavishly on unexplained “expenses”, there surely must be further questions asked!
The confidential report into Odyssey trust, carried out in 2010, is damming of the publicly funded charity, yet no questions were asked. It would be somewhat concerning if members of the Odyssey trust were availing of public money to travel around in private jets under the auspices of those unexplained “expenses”.
Perhaps the CEO of the Odyssey Robert Fitzpatrick, who earns in the region of £120,000 per annum- together with pension contributions, could help us answer some of these questions given that he must be one of the highest paid charity workers anywhere in Northern Ireland!
What has DCAL being doing about this and what oversight is there of this unaccountable charity who spend so much public money on undisclosed “expenses”?