House charge body pays €26k for council officials’ US course

The taxpayer has footed a €31,000 bill for sending local government officials from one county council to a management course at a US university — with the body that collects the household charge paying course fees.

At a meeting of Clare County Council last night, the local authority confirmed that three officials have participated in a three-week management programme at the prestigious Harvard University over the past five years.

The council confirmed that the body charged with collecting the household charge, the Local Government Management Agency, paid the course fees of €26,221, while the council paid an additional €5,726 in travel and subsistence that included cost of flights.

The un-named council figures to have participated in the course between 2008 and 2012 are two directors of finance and one director of service.

At the meeting in Shannon last night, Cllr Gerry Flynn (Ind) described the costs as “high”.

“Elected members are often under the cosh and vilified by the media for spending a few hundred euro and I think it is high time that we turned this around on the high costs of sending officials on these trips.”

Mr Flynn said county and city managers sit on the board of the LGMA.

“It is about time that the public realised the link between the council getting funds from the LGMA and supplying funds to them.”

Funding the three council executive members’ participation is part of a €253,050 spend by the LGMA to send 28 local government figures on the course over the last five years.

Since 2008, it has cost $313,550 (€253,050) to fund 28 senior local government officials.

LGMA chief executive Paul McSweeney attended the programme this year.

In 2012, it cost the LGMA $80,150 to send seven top local government officials to Harvard for this year’s programme.

The seven attendees included the manager of Dún Laoghaire and Rathdown County Council, Owen Keegan.

The course fee per participant this year was $11,450 — an increase on the $11,200 charged in the previous three years.

According to the formal council response on the issue, “the programme is an intensive and challenging three-week executive management programme delivered by the JFK School of Government at Harvard”.

“The Kennedy School has become the global leader in educating and empowering individuals committed to advancing the public interest,” said the response.

“Participants on the programme are drawn from senior executive in the public evince, local government around the world. Participants benefit from the renowned Harvard faculty and a dynamic curriculum.

“The programme focused on a range of public management areas including strategy, policy development, management controls and operations and management of human resources.

“The curriculum is designed to enhance and build on the skills of experienced executives to become more effective public managers.”

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