THE Comptroller and Auditor General John Buckley has urged the Government to overhaul the way it issues grants to external bodies in the wake of the SIPTU training fund controversy.
As reported yesterday, the C&AG’s latest report on public spending showed that more than €3 million, and not €2.3m as initially thought, was paid into an account in SIPTU’s name which the union has said it did not control.
The Gardaí, as well as the Health Service Executive, the Department of Finance and the Department of Health, are investigating how the €2.3m paid to the SIPTU National Health and Local Authority Levy as part of the €60m SKILL training programme was spent.
A large chunk of the money has not been vouched for.
The HSE is separately investigating what happened to a further €876,000 paid into a SIPTU-named account under the Action Plan for People Management in the period from 2004 to 2008.
In the wake of the controversy, the C&AG has issued recommendations to a number of Government departments including the Department of Finance and the HSE on how state funding should be managed.
He said there is a need “to ensure that procurement is transparently conducted and an adequate record maintained of the process followed and of how decisions are made”.
“Public financial procedures provide that grants must be fully vouched and any balance remaining unexpended at the end of the year must be surrendered.
“A grant-in-aid does not require detailed vouching but the grantee is obliged to provide audited accounts. There is a need for the Department of Finance to clarify whether and to what extent grants may be made on a block basis (not requiring detailed vouching) and to provide related guidance.”
He said in order to ensure clear and transparent management and accountability, all costs relating to the public business of a department or state body should be charged to the account of that department or body.
The C&AG also referred to the specific ongoing issues over the HSE payments to the SIPTU named account and to the 31 foreign trips funded out of the money even though a number of them were not cleared by the steering group of the SKILL programme.
He said some of the trips “were not integral to the SKILL programme” and their only connection is the fact that the costs were met out of funding provided out of the SKILL budget.
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