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Wednesday 24 May 2017

FAS spent €1.3m on investigations and legal actions

Fiach Kelly Political Correspondent

STATE training agency FAS spent €1.3m on investigations and court actions involving staff members following the spending scandals which led to the decision to scrap the organisation.

The current FAS director general Paul O'Toole told the Dail Public Accounts Committee (PAC) yesterday that of 14 managers investigated, one had their contract terminated, one was demoted and another four received sanctions, such as verbal and written warnings.

One of the 14 has been transferred to the Department of Social Protection as part of restructuring of the agency, which is to be renamed 'SOLAS'.

Another eight left through resignations or retirements.

Sinn Fein TD Mary-Lou McDonald said she was not happy with the level of information about the sanctions.

But PAC chairman John McGuinness praised the staff who stayed on at FAS after they had been punished.

"At least they faced up to their culpability," he commented. He added that the resignations of others -- such as the former director general Rody Molloy, who left with a €1.1m golden handshake -- had sent out "a most awful message".

Mr O'Toole said FAS was on a journey which had started "with it effectively brought to its knees". It was now being dissolved, he said.

TDs praised him for the changes he has made at FAS.

One of the reports, carried out by external management consultant Ignatius Lynam, investigated the conduct of the 14 staff. The total cost of his investigation was €550,000.

Sanctions

Mr O'Toole said each person had been investigated individually, leading to an average of €39,300 per probe.

A High Court action involving former corporate-affairs director Greg Craig cost €175,000, consisting of a settlement of €125,000 and €50,000 in legal costs.

FAS tried to sack Mr Craig in September but he sought to block his dismissal in the courts. He has now left FAS.

Other costs related to legal actions totalled €404,000.

The cost of the Mazaar's report -- which investigated grievances that one person had against 17 others -- came in at €188,000. No action has been taken against anybody on foot of this report, since it was based on one person's complaints.

Mr Lynam's report followed on from 22 audit reports which had raised questions about activities in the agency's corporate-affairs, procurement and finance sections.

Some 15 people were identified by Mr Lynam. One of those, former assistant manager James Brooke-Tyrell, was jailed for four years in March for defrauding the agency of more than €600,000.

Mr O'Toole said that between 2002 and 2007, more than €50m -- or an average of €7.5m a year -- was spent on items including advertising, airline flights, promotions and representations, where FAS bosses visited other organisations.

He added that since 2009 the spend had been reduced to €500,000 a year.

Meanwhile, the PAC also heard that 40,000 unemployed people referred to them never showed up for interview.

The PAC also agreed in principle to hold an inquiry into the banking collapse. While the inquiry will establish facts, it will not be able to examine policy or make findings.

Irish Independent

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