Thursday 23 February 2017

Taxpayers forked out €91,000 for group's travels

Michael Brennan Deputy Political Editor

A GROUP set up to improve the "working partnership" between council officials and unions paid for trips to Canada, the US and Spain at a cost to the taxpayer of €91,000.

Those on the trips included local authority officials, civil servants from the Department of the Environment, a county manager and members of SIPTU, IMPACT, the TEEU and other trade unions.

The funding came from a state body set up to improve the social partnership process, known as the Local Authority National Partnership Advisory Group (LANPAG).

New documents show how a former union leader was paid more than €50,000 in LANPAG funding for carrying out training courses -- and how half of its funding was used to pay 35 "partnership facilitators" salaries of up to €57,000 each.

Partnership

The group was set up in 1999 to improve the partnership process in local authorities at the request of former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern. According to new documentation, it has spent €39m since then.

Around half of its budget was spent on paying the wages of 35 "partnership facilitators" in every county and city council in the country. They are being paid annual salaries of up to €57,000.

The first LANPAG trip abroad was to New York to meet academics and unions. But it was interrupted by the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 -- so the group had to stay for eight days, which was longer than planned.

There was an eight-day trip to Madrid in 2003 to meet "high- ranking public servants" to discuss labour market reform. And there was a six-day trip to Toronto and Ottawa in Canada in 2007 to meet firefighters and government officials.

The Dail's Public Accounts committee is now investigating how €790,000 of LANPAG funding ended up in a secret bank account, which was controlled by two senior members of the trade union SIPTU.

Irish Independent

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