Wednesday 7 December 2016

Company in FAS exams scandal goes bust

Shane Phelan, Investigative Correspondent

Published 05/01/2010 | 05:00

THE business at the centre of the FAS marking scandal, when assessment results were changed so students could pass exams, has gone bust.

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A liquidator has been appointed to Ashfield Computer Training Ltd, according to documents made available yesterday by the Companies Registration Office.

The development comes less than three months after FAS said it was seeking to recoup up to €190,000 in fees it paid to the company to run the courses where irregularities were found.

Taoiseach Brian Cowen urged the state training agency to get the money back after the scandal was exposed in the Irish Independent last October.

However, the liquidation now raises serious doubts over whether any of the fees can be clawed back.

A meeting of creditors has already taken place, at which chartered accountant David Colleran was appointed as liquidator. Mr Colleran did not return calls seeking comment yesterday.

In a statement, FAS said it did not have a representative at the creditors meeting, but was continuing to take legal advice on the issue.

"FAS is continuing to research with its lawyers the options for recouping fees paid for these courses and/or the possibility for suing for damages," the statement said.

FAS stopped using Ashfield as a training provider early last year after an internal audit exposed irregularities in the marking and assessment of four courses run in the northeast in 2006 and 2007. Dublin-based Ashfield later said the courses had been run by a now defunct sister company and that the irregularities were down to the activities of a "rogue trainer". Owner Eamon Noonan also said the company had changed hands twice since the irregularities occurred.

According to the Department of Enterprise, Ashfield trained 1,049 people on FAS courses in the northeast between 2002 and 2007 and was paid more than €2m in fees.

The FAS audit found that a tutor had falsified results so pass grades could be given to students who had failed. It also found evidence that assessment materials had been manipulated on other courses.

Suspended

When the irregularities came to light, City & Guilds temporarily suspended accreditation for two courses until students were retrained and reassessed.

Ashfield admitted to the irregularities in April 2007, yet was still able to successfully tender for further FAS courses.

One of the courses proceeded after FAS was in possession of the damning audit report.

In a statement, the agency said the final course run by Ashfield for FAS finished in April of last year and there had been no further contracts since then.

After the controversy became public, Tanaiste Mary Coughlan ordered that FAS conduct a review of all 257 training programmes run by outside firms.

That review is ongoing and problems have been identified with two courses run by another company, a major training provider paid more than €1.5m in fees by FAS in recent years.

Irish Independent

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