VEC funded sail programme while boat rotted

Public money was being spent for four years on a sail training programme while its flagship vessel was out of the water and deteriorating on blocks.

The €150,000-a-year County Cork VEC programme was set up in 2003 for early school leavers in Bantry, West Cork.

However, it has emerged the iconic boat the Omar B, on which the programme was built around, has been in dry dock in Baltimore, Cork, since summer 2007.

Last year, CCVEC abandoned a bid to refloat the 75ft, three-mast schooner at the last minute and launched a review of the programme, which had its own staff and budget.

CCVEC has yet to decide what it will do with the vessel.

It is unclear how much has been spent on the boat or the project in the past six months, or whether the staff attached to it have been reallocated.

Meanwhile, a number of two-man dinghies bought with funds for the Omar B project have rarely seen the water and were only used twice last year.

CCVEC refused to comment on the issue. It was also silent on the failures highlighted in the audit of Macroom Youthreach and issues at Ballincollig and Fermoy Youthreach programmes.

It also declined to respond to queries on a number of other problems highlighted in separate internal probes. These have revealed:

* Kinsale Outdoor Education Centre had its order book withdrawn because bad practices contributed to a serious deficit situation.

* A teacher had to repay money, raised from pupils, from his own salary after it was washed away in the floods of Nov 2009.

* A school took in almost €50,000 in three days but kept it uninsured in safes on its premises because it was inconvenient for staff to go to the bank.

Elsewhere, members of CCVEC were pulled up after it emerged they were claiming meal allowances for attending VEC meetings where they were given a free sit-down lunch.

A spokesperson for the Department of Education said it was “seeking clarification from the VEC in relation to any possible losses arising” from the audit.

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