independent

Monday 21 April 2014

Enterprise Ireland denies using aid for jobs abroad

Julie Sinnamon, chief executive of Enterprise Ireland
Julie Sinnamon, chief executive of Enterprise Ireland

Enterprise Ireland (EI) says it is not using Irish taxpayers' money to subsidise jobs in Australia and Bulgaria.

The agency made the denial after an investigation by RTE Radio's 'This Week' found internal EI documents that raised concerns about oversight of support schemes for industry, including whether jobs claimed to have been created in Ireland by client companies are actually being created here.

EI is the state agency set up to promote jobs by supporting the growth and development of Irish-owned businesses.

It was forced onto the defensive after 'This Week' reported that EI's own internal auditors had criticised the agency.

That included outlining a case in Kilkenny where a company was given financial support under EI's €6m Job Expansion Scheme to help finance recruitment, but some of the new hires ended up working in Bulgaria and Australia.

A spokesman for EI told the Irish Independent that the aid is tied to the total number of Irish jobs created by a company, not individual roles.

In the Kilkenny case some people hired by a fast-growing Irish business had been posted to work overseas after they were recruited, but there was also a net increase in the total number of jobs in Ireland at the firm over the period, he said.

VERIFIED

Grants under the Job Expansion Scheme are only paid after the jobs numbers are verified by an initial audit. If the jobs are not being done in Ireland following a second audit that takes place three to five years later, the money is clawed back, he said.

The agency is not providing financial support for jobs being done abroad, the spokesman said.

The audit reports critical of EI were done under its own review process and only highlighted potential risks, he insisted. The investigation also highlighted issues in relation to a €1.3m scheme to help companies hire Irish graduates.

A report into the scheme said the "scoring" of applicant companies lacked transparency and cited poor structures and controls. The report warns of potential challenges because some lower scoring companies were able to access EI support while higher scoring applicants were turned down.

A spokesman for EI said the report had only looked at a pilot version of the scheme that was rolled out in 2010.

A report into another pilot scheme – this time set up to support feasibility studies for companies based in the southeast of the country – also found potential problems with evaluation and documentation.

EI oversees an annual budget of more than €130m that is aimed at boosting jobs by helping home-grown business grow and develop.

Irish Independent

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