Top official quit over delay with Fás report

A DEPARTMENTAL official chairing a review group examining aspects of Fás overspending resigned over the delay in publishing the findings of the group.

The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) heard yesterday that the official in the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment resigned in July after the completion of a draft report into €140m spent over the past four years to support employers in giving training to staff at a time of full employment.

The final report has still not been finalised.

The official’s letter of resignation also cited the “questionable involvement” of Dermot Quigley, an assistant secretary within the Department of Enterprise and a member of a committee to which the review group was to report its findings – and who is a board member of Fás since 2005.

The letter was read to the PAC by Sean Gorman, secretary general in the Department of Enterprise, who is himself a former Fás board member.

PAC member Deputy Roisín Shortall of Labour said it was “strange” that a steering group reviewing excessive spending within Fás had to report to a group that included a current Fás board member.

But Mr Gorman said that was “not unusual” and that in light of continuing investigations by the Comptroller and Auditor General into areas such as foreign travel and corporate governance within Fás, it was not currently prudent to publish the draft report.

Later, he said that the official, who was principal officer at the Department of Enterprise, had not been happy with the perceived delay in publishing the report and had felt “that it should just be wrapped up”.

The PAC was told the report may be ready by the end of this year.

The PAC also heard from Patrick Kivlehan, a director of Internal Audits in Fás, who said that 10 of the 23 internal audit reports into spending at Fás have been completed. He said it is hoped the remainder will be concluded by the end of October.

In relation to other aspects of the Comptroller and Auditor General’s (C&AG) recent report into advertising and promotion in Fás, the PAC was told excessive overspending in some areas was tolerated because savings had been effected elsewhere in Fás.

Deputy Darragh O’Brien of Fianna Fáil said it “beggared belief” that the finance department in Fás simply paid for exhibitions when there were serious concerns over public procurement methods in their organisation, including the fact that no tendering process was carried out for moving one exhibition from the RDS to Croke Park.

Meanwhile, €3.5m was spent on advertising a programme aimed at primary schools which used billboards and other non-targeted forms of marketing.

Fás chairman Peter McCloone said the role of corporate affairs in Fás “rightly or wrongly” did not look at sub heads or lower levels of financing where much of the overspending went on.

In hindsight, he said, spending and decision making at these levels warranted “deeper interrogation”.


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