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Sunday 11 December 2016

FAS hires agency to probe top officer's job freeze

Shane Phelan Investigative Correspondent

Published 19/07/2010 | 05:00

TROUBLED state training agency FAS has hired independent investigators to probe whether an employee central to spending and procurement scandals was wrongfully suspended.

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The agency has hired professional services company Mazars following a complaint from Greg Craig, FAS's former director of corporate affairs.

Mr Craig is himself at the centre of a separate independent investigation ordered by the agency into allegations of misconduct against 15 present and former employees.

The cost of the taxpayer-funded probes could run to tens of thousands of euro.

The latest independent inquiry is set to involve evidence from GAA president Christy Cooney.

Mr Cooney, a FAS assistant director general, publicly announced Mr Craig's suspension at a Dail Public Accounts Committee (PAC) hearing in November 2008, shortly before going on secondment to the GAA as the association's president.

Mr Craig was suspended following the discovery of irregularities in the running of the corporate affairs division.

He was centrally involved in many of the decisions which led to millions of euro being overspent and wasted by the agency over the past decade.

However, he was reinstated a short time later when union representatives objected to the manner in which he had been suspended.

He was subsequently moved to a new role as a health and safety officer after the corporate affairs division was disbanded.

Mr Craig was on sick leave when Mr Cooney told the PAC that he had been suspended pending the outcome of an internal audit.

Mr Craig subsequently claimed that the first he heard of his suspension was when Mr Cooney's comments were carried on a radio news bulletin.

A letter confirming his suspension did not arrive until a few days later, he said.

After lodging an objection, Mr Craig was reinstated and his suspension was recategorised as "administrative leave".

In recent months FAS bowed to pressure from Mr Craig to have an investigation into the manner in which his suspension was handled.

Sources told the Irish Independent that a team from Mazars has been asked to determine whether FAS had broken its own procedures and infringed on Mr Craig's rights as an employee. They are expected to report back later this year.

Mr Craig is among 15 present and former employees whose actions are being investigated by external management consultant Ignatius Lynam.

Questions

Mr Lynam was appointed on a €1,000-a-day contract following the completion of 22 audit reports that raised serious questions about activities over several years in the agency's corporate affairs, procurement and finance sections.

It is understood Mr Craig intends to fight allegations against him.

A previous internal audit accused Mr Craig of "changing his statement when presented with additional material" about various irregularities.

It criticised the role of his corporate affairs division in the setting up of a website which cost €1m more than it should have and duplicated the work of an existing service.

It also raised questions over how advertising contracts were awarded and the fees paid for certain contracts.

However, Mr Craig claims the audit was a "flawed document". He has also alleged that he was made a scapegoat for failings in FAS and had always acted with the approval of those above him.

Irish Independent

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