Agency unlikely to recoup €120,000 for falsified computer training results

THE state’s jobs agency, Fás, has admitted it is unlikely to recoup taxpayers’ money from a company which falsified the results of a computer training course.

TDs were told yesterday that questions were raised about a number of computer courses run by a company called Ashfield as early as February 2009 and which were paid for by Fás.

Fás director general Paul O’Toole told the Oireachtas Public Accounts Committee (PAC) that despite the fact the company had “falsified results” with one of its courses it had since gone into liquidation.

“We’re unlikely to get the money,” he told shocked TDs.

The Dublin firm has publicly blamed a ‘rogue trainer’ for manipulating the exam results.

Mr O’Toole said yesterday that after taking legal advice it was unlikely Fás and the taxpayer would recoup 120,000 in debt it was seeking from the firm.

“We did try to pursue the full cost to the state in relation to that,” he told TDs.

Meanwhile, it has emerged that just one teacher is working in a specially built €6.7m construction training college in Offaly.

The 33-acre Mount Lucas centre outside Tullamore in Co Offaly will now be used in the main for evening and education courses instead of training builders.

The hi-tech setup at the site with cranes and building equipment has mostly lain idle since been built for a Fás training scheme.

Only three staff have worked there, including one teacher, and just a handful of people have completed construction training since the centre opened in Taoiseach Brian Cowen’s constituency in late 2007.

Mr O’Toole yesterday said there the college facilities could be used if there was an upturn in the economy.

The Fás chief denied the idle college was a “massive white elephant”, but admitted the centre was “under-utilised”.

In addition, the taxpayer was paying Bord na Móna up to €10,000 a year to rent the bog land where the centre was located.

TDs heard an investigation was under way into a warehouse rental agreement in Finglas where Fás was paying €40,000 a year to now store furniture.

Allegations of a “conflict of interest” over the Tolka Valley business park unit were being examined, it was explained.

Commenting on the embattled state jobs agency and the issue of its spending, PAC chairman Bernard Allen yesterday said he was disappointed with its work.

Mr Allen told Mr O’Toole he had listened to a “chronicle of mismanagement and the inefficient use of taxpayers money”.


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