Ministers row over cash 'handout'
Sammy Wilson has accused the education minister of mismanaging his budget in a new row between the Northern Ireland Executive colleagues.
The latest exchange was prompted by John O'Dowd's announcement that payments worth £250 are to be made to low-paid education workers before the new financial year begins next month.
Mr Wilson said no approval was sought for the end-of-year "handout".
"This, to me, is an example of where a minister did not manage his budget well over the year, who has got an underspend and is looking for ways of getting rid of that underspend," he said. "It is something which causes me a great deal of concern."
He added: "I am still convinced that this was bad management of funds that were available."
Mr O'Dowd has said his move reflected the decision across the public sector - agreed by the Executive - to provide additional payments to low-paid staff earning less than £21,000 a year during a pay freeze.
Certain education bodies made the payment to staff in 2010/11 but found it not affordable in 2011/12, and the education department said the minister's move will pave the way for these staff to receive their second payment.
Mr Wilson insisted his Executive colleague was trying to get rid of money by giving it to low-paid workers. "Were there not educational objectives which that money could have been used on earlier in the year?" he asked, citing areas such as waiting lists for special needs assessments.
"It is something I will be taking up with him but I am not at all pleased about how he has handled this."
Mr O'Dowd said: "I am satisfied beyond doubt that I have taken the right decision and that is in the best interests of both the education system and of the low-paid workers who will benefit from the £250 payment."