Email the editor

Event caterer investigated in Belfast Waterfront probe

Major catering company Mount Charles investigated for years of alleged unpaid invoices to venue

Pictured: Mount Charles Group operated all of the catering facilities at Belfast Waterfront hall from 2002 to this year.

A leading UK catering company is being investigated for years of alleged unpaid invoices in its multi-million pound contract with Belfast's Waterfront Hall.

Mount Charles Group, which was contracted by the venue for more than a decade, reportedly owes a substantial sum to Belfast City Council, which operated at the venue until April this year. The exact amount that the catering company owes has not been revealed.

A Northern Ireland Audit Office (NIAO) spokeswoman told M&IT they were made aware of the allegations after a whistleblower came forward. The spokeswoman said the office has referred the matter on to council for its internal auditors to investigate. A council spokeswoman confirmed they are investigating, and added: "As the review is ongoing, it would not be appropriate to comment in further detail at this time."

Once the investigation is carried out, the council may refer the matter to police if evidence of fraud is found. Mount Charles Group has refused to comment.

An anonymous source told M&IT that Mount Charles has repaid some of the outstanding invoices since the allegations were made, but added: "The question remains, how did this all happen in the first place?".

During the period, Waterfront Hall was headed by MD Tim Husbands, who left to take up a leadership position at major tourism venue Titanic Belfast in June. Husbands also declined to comment on the matter.

Mount Charles Group, led by chairman Trevor Annon, held the catering contract since 2002, after agreeing to an annual sum to run the venue's restaurant, bars and catering facilities.

Amadeus now holds the catering contract for the venue after being awarded it this year.

Mount Charles was named the UK's fastest growing food service company last year. The Belfast company led the UK's Food Service Growth Report 2015, after experiencing a 32.5 per cent profit growth and with a turnover of £25.5 million. The company made £2.1 million in profits in 2014. The company employs 1,800 people and services about 60,000 customers a week.

In a statement from NIAO, a spokeswoman said: "Issues regarding a catering contract for services provided to the Waterfront Hall in previous years have been brought to our attention. In line with normal procedures we have referred the matters to Belfast City Council who are currently conducting a review. Therefore it would not be appropriate to comment on this at this time."

Facebook Share Twitter Share LinkeIn Share