Coronavirus: Heated exchanges over Sinn Féin Covid grants at Stormont
Stormont's Finance Committee has seen heated exchanges over the controversial payments of small business grants to Sinn Féin offices.
Last week, BBC News NI revealed three Sinn Féin offices received payments from Stormont's emergency Covid fund for small businesses.
One payment was made to the office of Sinn Féin MLA Maolíosa McHugh, who is a member of the committee.
He challenged members to repeat their allegations outside the meeting.
Members of the committee are afforded legal protection when speaking while it meets.
Ulster Unionist party leader Steve Aiken, who chairs the finance committee, said he had made a formal complaint to the Assembly's Commissioner for Standards in relation to Mr McHugh.
He said Mr McHugh should have made a declaration of interest at previous committee hearings, at which representatives of Land and Property Services (LPS) were giving evidence.
LPS made the small business grants payments on behalf of the Department of Finance.
DUP MLA Jim Wells said there was "a dark shadow which hangs over the funding of certain constituency offices" and there needed to be "an investigation into where public money was being spent".
He said the committee needed to "dig deep into what is going on here", adding: "I believe that Mr McHugh has not been frank with this committee, and frankly I'm surprised that he is still on the committee.
"I thought he would have done the decent thing and resigned."
Sinn Féin MLA Philip McGuigan told the committee that it was not its place to interrogate or investigate any member within it.
The three £10,000 payments under the Small Businesses Grant Support Scheme have now been paid back.
However, the revelation led to the resignations of former Foyle Sinn Féin MP Elisha McCallion, West Tyrone MLA Catherine Kelly and two party officials.
Maolíosa McHugh's office received the grant, which is understood to have been automatically lodged in a Sinn Féin bank account, in March.
In a statement last week, the Department of Finance said it could "confirm a payment was made in error to ratepayer name - Maolíosa McHugh MLA - Strabane Sinn Féin Office".
It added that the money was "repaid in full earlier this week".
However, Sinn Féin has insisted that Mr McHugh is not a signatory to the account into which the money was paid, did not have access to the account and had no oversight of it.
MLAs and MPs are not eligible for the grants.
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