THE director general of FAS has defended his decision to pay a €10,000 bonus to the senior official at the centre of a probe into advertising spending.
Rody Molloy said the official concerned had performed an "exceptional service" for the semi-state organisation in 2005 -- despite the fact that an internal audit into his behaviour was under way.
"We give bonuses to people who have done something exceptional. I could not presume this man's guilt when I was making a decision about who was getting bonuses," he said.
The Oireachtas Enterprise Committee heard yesterday that the official concerned had gone on sick leave. Mr Molloy told TDs he did not know what political connections the official concerned had and "nor do I care".
Last week, Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny told the Dail that the Comptroller and Auditor General had recently highlighted serious concerns about how FAS spent its €9m annual budget on advertising and PR.
A Freedom of Information request had shown that a senior executive had placed most advertisements himself, despite the fact that FAS employs an advertising agency.
Mr Molloy told the committee that disciplinary action had been taken against the official.
"In accordance with normal practice, we cannot divulge the details of that disciplinary action," he said.
Fine Gael TD Leo Varadkar said he had serious concerns about the management at FAS, which has 2,200 employees and a budget of over €1bn.
He said the FAS official at the centre of the internal audit had given out a €100,000 advertising contract to a local newspaper, contrary to normal procurement procedures, and had employed an accountancy firm which had provided him with personal financial advice.
The public needed reassurances that their money was being spent well and that State agencies were not tolerating "corruption or mismanagement" in their ranks, he said.
But Mr Molloy said his organisation had reacted appropriately after an anonymous letter detailing serious allegations about behaviour in FAS was sent to the office of then Entreprise and Employment Minister Mary Harney in 2004.
It had set up an audit, passed information to the gardai and took disciplinary action against the official concerned, he said.