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Thursday 22 June 2017

FAS racks up €1m bill trying to sack former top executive

Anne-Marie Walsh and Louise Hogan

FAS has racked up bills totalling more than €1m in its battle to sack a senior executive who was central to spending scandals at the failed state training body.

The taxpayer will now foot the huge bill for legal advice, consultants' reports, court fees and settlement costs relating to disciplinary action against FAS's former director of corporate affairs Greg Craig.

FAS attempted to dismiss Mr Craig last month. However, he sought to block his dismissal in the courts and yesterday secured a €175,000 settlement and apology from the agency in return for his departure.

The Irish Independent has learned the settlement comes on top of other significant costs related to his case, for a total of up to €1.275m. These include:

•Estimated legal costs of €300,000 from the High Court proceedings.

•€250,000 spent on a disciplinary report compiled by outside consultant Ignatius Lynam.

•A further sum between €200,000 and €250,000 spent on a separate report by another outside consultancy, Mazars, investigating complaints Mr Craig took against FAS.

•Around €300,000 in fees for legal advice associated with disciplinary action against Mr Craig and other FAS employees.

Mr Craig said the settlement was fair but the agency's spending on legal fees and investigations was "crazy".

"In my view, over €1m has been spent by FAS over the last 18 months on these investigations and it's been a complete waste of taxpayers' money," he said yesterday.

"I'm hoping the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) will look at the expenditure. A lot of it could been dealt with by people apologising and dealing with each other and not relying on very costly legal advice.

Breaches

"How many special needs assistants would you get for €1m? And it's still going on. It's a never-ending story."

Mr Craig said he had been portrayed as "out of control" -- although spending on his credit card was always signed off by senior managers and he was rarely on the numerous foreign trips booked on his card.

FAS said the settlement reached with Mr Craig amounted to more than €175,000.

This is made up of a termination payment of €75,000, €15,000 relating to grievances raised in the Mazars report, and €35,000 for annual leave he has not taken. It will also pay €50,000 plus VAT to his solicitors towards legal costs, and has issued an apology to Mr Craig in respect of adverse findings made in the Mazars report. The agency said it could not itemise the total cost of all its investigations into excessive spending because the PAC had asked it not to.

"We're in a process with the committee and have very specific instructions from the chairman and can't comment on matters appropriate to the committee," said a spokesman.

Mr Craig, of Greenlea Grove, Terenure, Dublin, brought High Court proceedings against FAS after he was informed in early September he was being dismissed following an internal investigation.

The court heard that he had locked himself in his office last month to study an internal report by management consultant Ignatius Lynam when FAS assistant director Conor Dunne pushed in the door and told him he was firing him.

Mr Dunne had said he studied the Lynam report and it had established serious breaches of procedure and he was going to fire him. The court heard he ordered him to leave the premises and hand in his keys.

Irish Independent

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