THE Government passed up on two clear chances to remove the board of Fás in recent months, despite revelations that the state training agency had wasted millions of euro of taxpayers’ money.
Fás chairman Peter McLoone yesterday confirmed the board would step down shortly following last week’s damning report by the Comptroller and Auditor General.
But Mr McLoone revealed that the board had twice gone to Government in recent months after the spending scandal first emerged, only to be told to stay put on both occasions.
The board first went to the Government after the Dáil Public Accounts Committee published a similarly devastating report in February detailing how Fás had breached financial procedures, wrongly funded first-class flights for senior executives and spent tens of millions of euro in questionable ways.
Mr McLoone was among those who had availed of the first-class flights at taxpayers’ expense. Despite this, he and the board were told they could remain.
“The message that we got was very clear: the Government said, ‘You are to continue,’” Mr McLoone told RTÉ Radio yesterday.
The board was instructed to “clean up the mess” and appoint a new director general to replace Rody Molloy, who had resigned in disgrace in November.
“In June, when the new director general was appointed, we again went back to the Government for confirmation that we were to continue, and that was given,” Mr McLoone said.
Things changed, however, after the publication of the comptroller’s report last week. The state’s spending watchdog examined just one small section of Fás’s billion-euro budget and found a litany of waste, including:
nAt least €622,000 paid out with no evidence that goods or services were ever delivered to Fás.
nMore than €600,000 spent on producing TV ads that were never broadcast.
On Thursday, Tánaiste Mary Coughlan, who as Enterprise Minister is responsible for Fás, refused to sack the 17-member board, but said she would accept their resignations if offered.
On Friday, Green leader and Environment Minister John Gormley said the board should go. Mr McLoone said this was the first time the Government had suggested the board no longer enjoyed its support.
“We had no indication from Government until Thursday night/Friday morning that its position was changing,” he said.
As a result, the board will agree at its next meeting to step down.
“I’m satisfied that when the board meets, the outcome of that board meeting will be that the board will decide that it should step down and cooperate fully with an orderly transition to a new board,” he said.
Separately, it was reported yesterday that the Government significantly boosted Rody Molloy’s pension when he resigned as a “sweetener” to avoid a legal case by the former director general.
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