Wednesday 29 March 2017

FAS billed for €21,000 so far over probe into employee

Shane Phelan Investigative Correspondent

EMBATTLED state training agency FAS has paid more than €21,000 so far to independent investigators probing whether an employee central to spending and procurement scandals was wrongfully suspended.

Further bills are expected as part of an investigation into a complaint by the agency's former director of corporate affairs Greg Craig, which is ongoing.

Professional services company Mazars was hired by FAS to investigate claims by Mr Craig that he was unfairly suspended from duties in late 2008.

Mazars was taken on to adjudicate on Mr Craig's complaint last December and the process was initially supposed to take just eight weeks.

However, sources say the matter has yet to be resolved.

Documents seen by the Irish Independent reveal Mazars was paid €21,265 in professional fees up to mid-May. Further invoices have yet to be lodged.

Separately, Mr Craig is one of 14 current and former FAS employees being investigated amid allegations of misconduct as part of another independent inquiry.

Mr Craig was suspended after major irregularities were found in the running of the corporate affairs division, which contributed to millions of euro being overspent and wasted.

But he was later reinstated and the suspension was reclassified as administrative leave. He was redeployed to work in health and safety.

Evidence from GAA president Christy Cooney will form part of the Mazars inquiry.

Mr Cooney, who is on secondment to the GAA from his position as FAS assistant director general, announced Mr Craig's suspension at a hearing of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) in November 2008.

Mr Craig was on sick leave at the time and claims the manner in which he was suspended was unfair. He said the first he heard of it was when Mr Cooney's comments were carried on a radio news bulletin.

He also claims a letter confirming his suspension only arrived a few days after the PAC announcement.

Infringed

Mazars has been asked to determine whether FAS broke its own procedures or infringed on Mr Craig's rights as an employee.

Meanwhile, the separate independent inquiry into the conduct of FAS staff, which was launched earlier this year, is also ongoing.

It is unclear how much it has cost to date, but it is known that external management consultant Ignatius Lynam is being paid around €1,000 a day.

He is examining disciplinary complaints against eight current FAS employees and six former staff members.

The complaints arose out of 22 audit reports which highlighted deficiencies in the agency's corporate affairs, procurement and finance sections.

Irish Independent

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