A MASSIVE €4.5 million was paid out to SIPTU and ICTU from the misspent Fás training package which has caused the European Commission to withhold €57m in social funding.
However, the main union involved has said the benefits it received from this training fund, the Competency Development Programme (CDP), had nothing to do with its vociferous defence of the continued existence of Fás after news of Europe’s actions broke.
At the weekend Jack O’Connor, president of SIPTU and the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, said Ruairí Quinn of the Labour Party was “completely wrong in his call for closing down Fás”.
Mr Quinn had made his comments after the Department of Education confirmed the last round ofEuropean social funding (2000-2006) worth €57m had been withheld and the next tranche (2007-2013), worth €211m is frozen, pending an audit of how Fás spent the money.
A major part of this was the CDP, which was focused on programmes for workers who wanted to up-skill.
The commission has already said Ireland had “serious questions to answer” in how Fás paid out money to a multitude of private companies to provide training.
Since 2004 SIPTU College received €2.06m from Fás under the CDP. ICTU was paid €2.46m. In 2008 alone SIPTU College was paid €862,644 and ICTU received €1,338,064.
These figures werepublished by website The Story.ie.
A spokesman for Mr O’Connor said the SIPTU president was speaking about the employment position generally and the European audit was not something on which SIPTU would comment.
On Friday a statement from this spokesman said that “rowing in with the populist demonisation of Fás is a poor substitute forvisionary and innovative policy-making in response to the most serious economic and social challenge this society has faced for many decades”.
Yesterday, Mr O’Connor spoke on RTÉ’s This Week programme and pulled back from his initial assertion. He said while he believed Fás should remain in place, his comments on Mr Quinn’s position were based on the need to channel resources to create employment.
“There are problems with Fás and there are problems that are capable of being overcome and that are being overcome,” he said.
An internal audit of how the CDP was spent is due to be presented to the board of Fás this week. This audit is understood to say that up to 15% of programmes that received money under the CDP should not be put forward for European Social Fund claims.
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