Department audit finds 'inflated' job placement figures
An audit of a community organisation that gets €6.6m in state funding a year to promote jobs in Tipperary found "inflated" job placement figures and 48 instances of "inappropriate" or "ineligible" spending.
The North Tipperary Leader Partnership (NTLP) was criticised for "excessive" spending of €630 on tea and sandwiches for the board of directors, who include county councillors, representatives of the IFA and Teagasc.
Other examples of "ineligible expenditure" included €195 on a Christmas lunch for the board and €969.27 spent on "tea/coffee/scones/sandwiches/wraps" for staff.
However, the NTLP, which received €6.6m in funds in 2014 from various state agencies and government departments, is disputing many of the auditor's findings in a detailed response to the auditors.
The organisation delivers local economic and community-based services, including a Job Club it is contracted to provide by the Department of Social Protection.
The Department's auditors made an "un-notified call" to Nenagh Job Club in August last year, and found no Job Club staff on duty. Auditors found the Roscrea Job Club provided no formal workshops or training for three months last year, which they described as "a breach of contract" and "inadequate service provision".
Auditors also found placement statistics for the Roscrea Job Club to be "inaccurate" and "inflated". According to the audit, the results recorded by NTLP showed 268 people had been "placed" but an audit analysis showed the results "should have read 60".
In general, auditors said overheads and travel and subsistence were areas of "high concern", as there were "numerous observations of inappropriate or ineligible expenditure identified across many of the programmes."
Other instances of "inappropriate" or "ineligible" spending included: €140 on Christmas decorations, €24 on Christmas crackers for a staff training day, mileage totalling €62.40 paid to a staff member to transport sandwiches from the NTLP's canteen in Roscrea to Nenagh for board meetings; and the purchase of two 'One for All' gifts cards for €50 each
The NTLP says the inaccurate figures were due to "misinterpretation" and said absences were due to sick leave. In a statement to the Sunday Independent, it said the company "co-operated fully with the audit but did not get the opportunity, during the course of the audit, to clarify any issues that arose. Once the audit was completed and the audit report issued, North Tipperary Leader Partnership were afforded the opportunity to comment on the report and clarify any issues that arose. The Company considered the report fully and prepared a detailed response to same."
The NTLP disputed many findings, including the fact that hospitality was an ineligible expense. It said the Department of Social Protection had not made this clear. It adhered to Revenue Commissioners guidelines on travel and subsistence.