CONFUSION surrounds the identity of 52 public sector spouses who supposedly travelled together on a junket at the taxpayers’ expense.
The Comptroller and Auditor General’s office has confirmed that one state agency, out of 20 surveyed, claimed to have paid for 52 partners of staff to travel on a single trip in 2007 or 2008.
However, the 20 companies involved in the survey each denied it was them when contacted yesterday.
This has prompted calls for the C&AG to lift its confidentiality clause and reveal which company was responsible for the lavish gesture.
However, it said the survey was intended to be a private reference point for its investigation into overspending at Fás and not an inquiry in its own right. A spokeswoman said the C&AG would not be investigating the matter.
This has allowed the 20 semi-state agencies who completed the survey to deny including this detail on their return.
Some volunteered the information they supplied to the C&AG.
Bord na gCon said the only non-staff travel expense listed on its survey sheet was for €400 to pay for the flight costs of two commentators to fly from Britain.
It said there was no trip organised by it in recent years which could have involved such a large amount of people travelling. For most of the most of the agencies surveyed, 52 staff members would represent a significant portion of their entire payroll.
Science Foundation Ireland (54 employees), the Irish Sports Council (30), Údarás na Gaeltachta (112), Forfás (115), Tourism Ireland (150), Institute of Public Administration (118) and Bord na gCon (300).
The companies with the largest number of employees to offset such expenses are Teagasc (1,574), the Central Bank (1,022), Enterprise Ireland (907) and Horse Racing Ireland (717).
However, all these categorically denied sending this amount of spouses abroad.
But the C&AG’s office stood over this detail, which was included as a footnote in its latest Fás report.
It said in one survey return a company admitted to sending 52 spouses of staff members away on a single trip. The section of the form did not require the company to specify whether the trip happened in 2007 or 2008, or list the destination.
Bernard Allen, chairman of the Dáil public account’s committee, said if a state agency had paid for 52 spouses to travel on a single trip they should admit it, otherwise, he said, they would have to be chased down.
“I am calling for the agency involved to come forward and admit it was them. If not the PAC will write to each agency in its jurisdiction and ask them to report to us on this,” he said.
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