Probe into €75m spent on unfilled school places

Oireachtas officials are to inquire into what happened to €75m spent by a state-funded charity to support thousands of school places which were never filled. 

Comptroller and Auditor General Séamus McCarthy said yesterday that 15,000 excess school places were eventually reported in 2011, for funds spent over four years up to 2010.

The children had been registered for the places but never turned up, the Public Accounts Committee heard.

Grants had been made for 15,000 children who never filled the places.

PAC chairman John McGuinness said the committee needed an update on what had happened and to what extent the money, which had been spent by Pobal, was repaid.

Money had been supplied for not only the pupils’ education but for the staffing, cleaning and feeding at locations, TDs heard.

Mr McCarthy said that the €75m was spent was known before but that there has been recent correspondence sent into the committee with an update.

The comments came as TDs heard how €124,000 was overpaid to one early childhood facility in Galway.

Fine Gael TD Paul Connaughton described this as “one hell of an overpayment”. Officials with state agency Údarás na Gaeltachta said it had been agreed that €100,000 would be paid back by 2016.

People had registered their children, TDs were told, and only later it was discovered that the children had not attended the facility.

Údarás chief executive Stiofán Ó Cúláin agreed that the payments stopped only when people were caught out during an audit.

The manager had since been replaced, TDs were told.


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