Training firms facing fraud probes over FAS courses
GARDAI have been asked to investigate allegations of fraud against two companies running FAS-linked training courses.
The cases include one where a training firm is alleged to have issued false certificates to students on a community employment scheme in the west of the country.
The revelation came as the latest twist in the ongoing scandal over irregularities in courses run by outside companies on behalf of the state training agency.
FAS director general Paul O'Toole confirmed the two cases were among eight, involving seven separate firms, where officials had found evidence of serious malpractice by contractors or tutors.
Three of those cases were dealt with in a report published yesterday following a review of 304 courses provided by outside companies for FAS.
The agency initiated the probe last October after the Irish Independent revealed how a tutor doctored results so that students could pass exams they would otherwise have failed.
The report revealed how:
- Results were deliberately manipulated on three of the 304 courses.
- The affected courses dealt with computer basics and computerised accounts.
- Less than half of all courses were fully compliant with FAS rules and procedures.
- Irregularities led to the rescoring of assessments, re-sits, or retraining on 43 courses, containing 718 students.
- 116 of those students ended up having their grades revised downwards, while 22 had their grades increased.
- Major but non-deliberate course irregularities were found with 14 courses.
- 50 courses had "less serious" problems, including incorrect totalling of marks and grades.
- Some trainers had "a casual approach" to marking tests and completing documentation.
- Other trainers were inexperienced and not properly briefed.
But FAS refused to reveal the identity of training companies found culpable in the report.
Mr O'Toole said it would be "unfair" to do so as some matters were being referred to a review panel of the National Register of Trainers, which can opt to de-list companies.
Separately, the Irish Independent has also learnt of other irregularities not investigated in the report, which have led to 230 students in the northeast waiting for certificates over a year after completing courses.
Mr O'Toole, who replaced disgraced former FAS boss Rody Molloy, said he wished "to express regret to the learners who were caught up in this".
Fine Gael education spokesman Fergus O'Dowd said the report exposed "a litany of shambles, incompetence and corruption".
He added: "Some external contractors must have seen FAS as a cash cow that had little interest in ensuring the delivery of quality training."
The report revealed that one company was suspended from the training register over irregularities in the registering of certificates. The matter was referred to gardai last March.
In a second case, FAS recommended gardai be called in after a contractor issued false certificates to community employment scheme participants.
The students were offered retesting and all but three of the false certificates were recovered.