FRAUD detectives have handed over files to the Director of Public Prosecutions following an investigation into an advertising company suspected of systematically double- charging Fás.
It is understood the company’s owner ran several firms which regularly billed the State training agency more than once for the same work.
According to Garda sources, a Fás employee is also under investigation in relation to the mysterious payout of €622,000 over a period of years for goods and services never supplied.
The Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation was called in after an audit of the agency’s advertising and promotions spending. It found 47 invoices to two different payees which could not be accounted for between 2002 and 2008.
An investigation by the Comptroller and Auditor General John Buckley uncovered a litany of waste. The 81-page report found:
* More than €600,000 was frittered away on a TV advertisement that was not broadcast because there was no money left to pay for it.
* Fás bosses paid for a car that was never delivered, and was to be used in a raffle that didn’t take place.
* Overall spending of €48 million was €18m over-budget, while bosses spent 66% more than the agreed limit on advertising alone.
* Spending on jobs fairs was allowed to run €6.1m over-budget.
Tánaiste and Enterprise Minister Mary Coughlan noted the “serious deficiencies” in Fás’s financial affairs but said legislation was needed to change the board. She said she was willing to accept resignations.
Fine Gael last night called for “heads to roll”. “Accountability for this bad practice goes all the way to the top of the organisation,” said finance spokesman Leo Varadkar.
Chair of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) Bernard Allen said the board of Fás needs restructuring: “The report shows the lack of controls and poor corporate governance has led to a waste of taxpayers’ money.”
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved