Friday 18 August 2017

FAS report outs 52 spouses on single State trip

FAS director-general Rody Molloy resigned shortly after the Sunday Independent published the revelations.
FAS director-general Rody Molloy resigned shortly after the Sunday Independent published the revelations.

Nick Webb and SHANE ROSS

THE report into embattled quango FAS has uncovered details of what could be the "mother of all junkets".

As part of his investigation into FAS, Comptroller & Auditor General (C&AG) John Buckley questioned 20 State agencies, including Tourism Ireland, Enterprise Ireland and Horse Racing Ireland, on their foreign travel spending.

One unnamed State agency revealed that it paid for one extraordinary trip on which more than 50 staff partners travelled. “This refers to a single trip on which 52 spouses travelled,” the report notes.

The taxpayer funded this jolly, in which partners were “travelling by invitation to an official spouse’s programme”, according to the C&AG’s report. The trip took place between 2007 and 2008. Eighteen of the state agencies confirmed to the C&AG that they had paid for non-staff travel.

The C&AG declined to comment last Friday. Most of the State agencies listed in the watchdog report denied that they had paid for partners’ travel expenses when contacted by the Sunday Independent. The agencies included Tourism Ireland, Udaras, Horse Racing Ireland, the Sports Council, Forfas, Teagasc and Beaumont Hospital.

Just four State agencies — Dublin Institute of Technology, Enterprise Ireland, the Central Bank and IDA — accounted for two thirds of the €8.6m bill for flights clocked up by the 20 agencies between 2007 and 2008. All four have denied that they paid for spouses to travel.

Eighteen of the State agencies questioned by the C&AG revealed that they paid for flights for people other than staff members. Although some agencies were reimbursed, around €1.5m incurred for 4,000 flights for non-staff members was not recouped, according to the report.

“Reasons provided for incurring these costs included costs for external examiners and external assessors, scientists for peer review services, staff members’ spouses travelling by invitation to an official spouse’s programme and ministerial travel for trade trips,” the report notes.

Revelations of this extravagant new junket will not deflect from the report’s findings of wanton overspending and lack of controls at FAS, first revealed by the Sunday Independent.

The report highlighted how the beleaguered jobs creation quango clocked up an incredible 4,400 flights over a sixyear period — around two per day for an agency that was set up to deal with unemployment in Ireland. This included 1,000 long-haul flights at a cost of €1.7m. Some €32,000 was spent jetting the spouses of senior FAS figures around the world. Of this, €21,000 was for the wife of former FAS chief Rody Molloy, and a further €11,200 was for the travel costs of a former assistant director-general of the organisation. (FAS was reimbursed €200 for one of the flights taken by the spouse of the former assistant DG.)

FAS director-general Rody Molloy resigned shortly after the Sunday Independent published the revelations. The C&AG’s report — published last Thursday — showed that FAS spent €4.7m on foreign travel costs, as well as €1.7m on “business costs”, which included tickets to Six Nations Rugby and GAA matches as well as top-end tickets to see The Police, Neil Diamond, Robbie Williams and U2. It has also emerged that the organisation spent an extraordinary €8,900 on golf fees. The report also showed that FAS spent taxpayers’ cash on “large amounts of alcohol on lunch bills”

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