THE Central Bank has been outed as the state body which flew 52 spouses of its staff on international trips.
But they did not all travel on the same trip as had been reported by the Comptroller and Auditor General.
Instead the bank said there were 49 different trips in two years and these were to fulfil official invitations.
The C&AG had to correct the reference in its recent report which said all 52 spouses flew out on a single trip, it published this detail as a footnote in its report on spending habits at Fás. However, ahead of a planned probe by the Public Accounts Committee the details of the trips were clarified last night.
A statement from the Central Bank said its travel policy only allowed for spouses to travel under exceptional circumstances and its response to the C&AG had been misread.
And it said compared with the 19 other state agencies surveyed by the C&AG its 52 trips, out of a total staff of 1,022, the bank had displayed prudence.
“The Central Bank completed a detailed survey for the C&AG on our travel policies and procedures. The C&AG’s office clearly misinterpreted one of our responses and published this information without checking the accuracy of their statement.
“In fact the C&AG report demonstrates that the Central Bank/Financial Regulator is well below the average of those agencies surveyed,” it said.
The bank said it paid for 62 trips for non-staff members (124 flights) out of 4,000 such trips paid for by all the agencies in the same period. And it said these 52 trips for spouses accounted for just 1.9% of the 2,700 trips it paid for in 2007 and 2008.
Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee Bernard Allen said it was still unacceptable that an agency which “preached moderation” had sanctioned this level of expenditure.
“For this level of expenditure to have taken place over a period of time has to be questioned. More information should be made available,” he said.
He said the PAC will tackle the issue in mid-April as part of a scheduled examination of the financial services sector.
And he said the wider issue of spouses’ travel being paid for by taxpayers had to be addressed.
A statement from the C&AG, John Buckley, said the report has been amended and it accepted the Central Bank’s explanation.
He also defended its decision not to reveal the agency that incurred the expenditure, which resulted in all 20 agencies falling under suspicion.
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