Saturday 23 March 2019

Council officials sent on €10,000 Harvard course

Gordon Deegan

THE taxpayer is paying almost €10,000 to send the head of the body responsible for collecting the €100 household charge to a prestigious American Ivy League college.

Chief executive of the Local Government Management Agency (LGMA) Paul McSweeney has enrolled at the 'senior executives in state and local government' course at Harvard University.

The three-week programme will cost the hard-pressed taxpayer €9,239.

Yesterday Environment Minister Phil Hogan admitted it had cost $313,550 (€253,050) since 2008 to send 28 senior local government officials on the course.


However, the costs released yesterday did not include the travel expenses of the officials concerned, which are funded separately by their respective local authorities.

Mr Hogan revealed details about the plan in written Dail responses to People Before Profit TDs, Richard Boyd Barrett and Joan Collins.

Last night Mr Boyd Barrett described the costs as "absolutely outrageous" and questioned the need for council officials to attend a course at Harvard University.

Mr Hogan confirmed that the LGMA is to spend $80,150 (€64,670) on sending seven local government officials to the prestigious US college for this year's programme.

Among those who have been sent to Harvard, Massachusetts, for the course is the manager of Dun Laoghaire Rathdown, Owen Keegan.

The fee per participant this year is $11,450 (€9,239) -- an increase on the $11,200 (€9,037) that has been charged for the previous three years.

The programme runs from June 4 to June 22 and July 9 to July 27.

The head of finance at Clare and Waterford councils, the head of IT at Fingal council and the directors of service at Offaly and Wexford councils have also enrolled in the course.

Mr Boyd Barrett said that the course was an expensive junket.

"I find it difficult to understand why local authority officials need to go to Harvard to learn how to run local government in Ireland.

"They would be better served listening to the people here," he said.

And Ms Collins added: "It is quite a lot of money to be spending where we can see no clear benefit for the taxpayer."


Mr Hogan said that the programme had been sponsored by the LGMA since 1997.

He said the course focused on organisational strategy, political management, policy development, management controls and operations, and management of human resources.

"The curriculum is designed to build on the significant skills which experienced executives already possess," Mr Hogan added.

"Each year, following a nomination and selection process, the selected participants are approved by the board of the LGMA to attend."

The LGMA yesterday confirmed the dates of this year's course, but did not comment further.

Irish Independent

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