Monday 22 December 2014

State jobs agency is asked to clarify staff travel bills

Published 21/07/2014 | 02:30

Richard Bruton, Minister for Jobs Enterprise & Innovation
Richard Bruton, Minister for Jobs Enterprise & Innovation

THE job-creation agency Enterprise Ireland (EI) is under pressure to explain serious irregularities in staff travel expense claims.

Auditors Ernst and Young reported some staff were claiming expenses for trips without giving the purpose of their trip or even where they were going.

In these circumstances the risk of false claims could not be ruled out.

The audit found "numerous occasions" where staff made expense claims without sufficient documentation.

The audit report does not specify how much money was involved in the cases they examined. The most recent EI annual report shows that the state body spends €4m on travel every year on its missions to help Irish business develop export markets.

There were calls last night by two government TDs for the agency to publicly explain the matter, and one Fine Gael TD said EI bosses should appear before an Oireachtas committee to explain how taxpayers' money was being spent.

But a statement from the Enterprise Department suggested that the minister Richard Bruton was not interested in taking the matter any further.

The auditors' report was obtained by RTE under the Freedom of Information Act and reported on the 'This Week' radio programme yesterday.

Other matters of concern were claims for overnight stays where the distance was close enough to allow return travel the same day, multiple trips to visit the same client, and inconsistency between claim documentation and records in the computer system.

Sean Kyne, a Fine Gael TD for Galway West and a member of the Oireachtas Enterprise Committee, said EI had a good record of achievement.

Exports

"But I would be concerned about value for taxpayers' money here and I think this matter should be examined further by the Oireachtas Enterprise Committee. I would like to see the principals of Enterprise Ireland appearing at the committee to explain matters," Mr Kyne said.

EI said all of the auditors' recommendations had been fulfiled.

The agency said that all necessary claim documentation was provided in line with the rules at that time which dated back to June 2013.

A spokeswoman for the Enterprise Department last night said it noted that EI had accepted the all auditors' recommendations.

"The department looks forward to growing exports further and working with and supporting Irish companies to win new exports in order to sustain and grow jobs," the spokeswoman said.

Irish Independent

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