The NI Executive operate a number of overseas offices – or bureaux – to represent the interests of NI in Washington, Brussels and since 2014/15, China.
The Bureau in Washington has the following description from the Executive office;
‘The Bureau works to cultivate and strengthen mutually beneficial links among economic, educational, cultural and community development interests in North America and Northern Ireland’.
The Washington office has a complement of 6 staff and has done since opening, whilst the Brussels office has had 5 staff from 2009-12, increasing to 7 staff in 2015/16.
The China office, which opened in 2014 has two staff.
BtP asked the Executive Office to outline how much each office spent on staffing, hospitality and travel each year since opening.
Despite implementing an austerity budget at home, the spending of the three overseas office (the Chinese office less so) could be seen as extravagant.
Since opening in 2007/8, the Washington office has spent over half a million pounds on hospitality – £686,000 to be exact. This dwarfs the other two offices, with Brussels having spent £178,000 and China £4,000 on hospitality.
On travel, the Washington office far outspent its counterparts again, spending £737,000 since opening, compared to £231,000 for Brussels and £28,000 for the Chinese office.
The staffing for each office, bearing in mind the highest staff complement in any office itself is 7, are phenomenal.
Since opening, Washington has spent almost £3 million on staffing – £2.949m. Surprisingly, Brussels tops the board with a staffing spend of over £3 million – £3.071m, and China has spent £265,000.
In total, the three NI Bureau offices have cost the taxpayer a whopping £8.149m since opening.