The British Association for Shooting and Conservation has met with Kieran Donnelly, Northern Ireland Auditor General, to alert him to delays in the firearm licensing process.
The meeting, arranged by Patsy McGlone MLA, follows complaints from BASC members and trade members about protracted delays in processing applications which impact on the livelihoods of many firearms dealers.
Mr Donnelly is responsible for the external auditing of central government bodies, which can include a value for money audit.
BASC NI Director Tommy Mayne said: “The meeting was constructive and we are grateful for the opportunity to meet Mr Donnelly to share the frustrations of our members, who are now paying almost double the money for half the service.
“We discussed the Police Service of Northern Ireland’s (PSNI) failure to consult, despite their statutory obligation, on their intention to remove the paper firearms licensing application system and current backlogs, believed to be in excess of 4000 applications.
“We also spoke about the PSNI’s failure to publish processing times despite promises to the NI Assembly’s Committee for Justice during evidence sessions prior to the increase in firearms licensing fees.
“BASC has recently asked the PSNI’s Firearms and Explosives Branch to provide statistics in relation to processing times. However, they have, so far, not done so.”
Mr McGlone, chair of the NI Assembly’s All Party Group on Country Sports, said: “The PSNI are now getting double the money for the service they provide to certificate holders and they must meet certain standards in relation to that service.
“Those standards include openness, fairness, objectivity, transparency, accountability and, most importantly, value for money.
“As a result of our meeting, Mr Donnelly has asked me to register his interest with the PSNI. Mr Donnelly also stated that he will register his interest with his own audit team. I am confident that as a result of our efforts, Mr Donnelly will use his influence to reduce processing times and ensure service levels are improved.”
BASC will continue to work with partner organisations and elected representatives to ensure the PSNI are accountable and that the NI firearms licensing system provides value for money.