Cork VEC urged to outline plan to reclaim €115k

Internal documents have revealed the pressure County Cork VEC is under to stem losses at two controversial projects.

The Department of Education has demanded an explanation for how CCVEC intends to claim back more than €115,000 wrongly paid to students and staff at Macroom Youthreach.

CCVEC has also been told it is not feasible to continue to pay to keep a flagship sail training vessel in dry dock and it should be destroyed if it cannot be re-floated.

In a series of letters released under the Freedom of Information Act, the department told CCVEC it was not responding to its queries quickly enough.

It hauled its management to a meeting to discuss a series of issues.

CCVEC has previously conceded that €115,000 was lost because students at Macroom Youthreach were given allowances they were not entitled to.

However, in March, the department told CCVEC it needed an urgent answer to the question how this money could be recouped.

Two days later CCVEC’s acting chief executive, Joan Russell, said it has run into problems. It said 16 students had been overpaid but only four were still attending Macroom Youthreach.

“They have only a short time left on the course, so there is only a limited amount that could be recouped,” she said.

She also said its solicitors had advised against chasing 12 former students as it did not have a contract.

“The prospects of recovering the monies are limited by virtue of the fact that these trainees are no longer being paid by CCVEC. Endeavouring to recover the monies through the civil courts would be difficult and it would incur costs.”

In a [url=]letter from February, CCVEC said it had made a self-disclosure to Revenue in relation to a failure to deduct PAYE and PRSI from staff pay. However, it said it did not see cause to claim money back from staff for overpaid hours.

The department had already warned CCVEC that the audit of Macroom had highlighted overpayments to staff and it wanted answers.

“The department has sought clarification on these and related issues on a number of occasions over a long period. To date, satisfactory clarification has not been received. I now request an immediate, full and comprehensive response to the range of issues raised.”

Regarding the Omar B sail training vessel, which has been in dry dock in Baltimore since 2007, CCVEC was asked about an engineer’s suggestion that repairs would cost €150,000.

Ms Russell said the cost may be €35,000 but it does not know what it can do with the boat. A report to the department confirmed there was an Omar B project until its name was changed last year.

There was no mention of it in successive financial statements prepared by CCVEC.

The department said it was not appropriate to keep paying for the boat to be kept in dry dock.

“In the event of the VEC not being able to dispose of the boat please advise the cost of destroying it as it is not feasible to continue to pay to keep it in dry dock,” she said.

CCVEC said it could not destroy it because it had an agreement with the man who donated it, Don Attig, that it would only be transferred to a group engaged in youth work.

CCVEC said it had purchased a number of dinghies, sailing equipment and up to 30 kayaks to provide an alternative sail training programme.

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