Government agency spends €315k to send officials to college

The cost to the taxpayer of sending a select number of senior local government officials to an exclusive management course at Harvard University tops €315,000 for the past seven years, figures show.

Between 2008 and 2014, it cost the Local Government Management Agency (LGMA) €315,564 to fund 35 senior local government officials in a three-week long management programme, ‘Senior executives in state and local government’ at Harvard.

The LGMA, which was initially charged with collecting the household charge, is footing the bill for the course. Its own chief executive, Paul McSweeney, attending the programme in 2012, along with Dublin City Council chief executive Owen Keegan.

The costs do not include travel expenses of the officials concerned, which are funded separately by their respective local authority. The money paid by the LGMA covers tuition fees and on-campus accommodation and meals.

People Before Profit Alliance TD Richard Boyd Barrett yesterday described the spend as “a pretty shocking waste of money when councils are on their knees financially. This spend will drive ordinary people crazy when they see that councils don’t have the money to provide the most basic of services.”

The Harvard course is run by the JFK School of Government.

In response to a request under the Freedom of Information Act, the LGMA said that, last year, it spent €26,662 ($35,850) to send three directors of services to Harvard: Mary Ryan from Cork County Council, Richard Shakespeare from Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council, and Michael Heaney from Donegal County Council.

The figures for 2013 show that the LGMA spent €35,852 ($47,200) sending four officials to Harvard: Director of service at South Dublin County Council Teresa Walsh; executive manager at Dublin City Council Rose Kenny; director of service at Offaly County Council Declan Kirrane; and director of service at Galway County Council Eddie Cummins.

The LGMA paid €56,594 to send officials in 2012.

The course fee per participant last year was $11,950 compared to $11,800 in 2013. It has increased to $12,400 this year.

Eight chief executives from councils around the country sit on the board of the LGMA, including Mr Keegan, Tim Lucey of Cork County Council, and Conn Murray of Limerick City and County Council.

The programme has been sponsored by the LGMA since 1997.

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