FAS has spent €500,000 on staff probe
STATE training agency FAS has spent almost €500,000 on a major disciplinary investigation, which may have to be abandoned.
Documents released under freedom of information rules reveal huge bills linked to the 14-month-long inquiry.
The probe has focused on eight staff members and six former employees -- each identified by a series of internal audits as having cases to answer in connection with the questionable spending of FAS funds.
Using the information contained in the audits, FAS hired an independent investigator at a cost of €1,200 a day to recommend what action should be taken against the staff involved.
The move was part of an effort by the under-fire agency to draw a line under a series of scandals which have dogged it in recent years. However, over a year on and with hundreds of thousands of euro spent, findings have yet to be made.
FAS is also facing the appalling vista of having to scrap the investigation after the Labour Court was informed by SIPTU, which represents some of the staff involved, about alleged procedural bungling during the audits which led to the inquiry being set up.
Meanwhile, costs associated with the investigation continue to mount. Documents obtained by the Irish Independent reveal just under €492,000 has been shelled out to date.
Independent investigator Ignatius Lynam of LMCS Management Consultants has invoiced for just over €150,000, including VAT, for 130 days work he has done so far. His bill was €1,200 for each of the first 60 days, and €1,090 for each of the 70 days after that.
Consultancy firm Mazars has been paid €112,000 for work linked to the investigation, including a report which criticised the manner in which the internal audits were conducted.
Law firm William Fry has invoiced FAS for €226,000.
A further €2,600 has been spent hiring conference rooms for meetings between the investigators and the staff members.
All of the sums paid were inclusive of VAT.
To date no FAS staff member has faced the sack for improper conduct. Last night, FAS defended the money spent on the inquiry. "These costs must be considered in light of the commitment of FAS to achieve meaningful reform," it said.