Tuesday 21 May 2019

In the spotlight: How spending saga unfolded

Michael Brennan

2004 - Enterprise and Employment Minister Mary Harney receives an anonymous letter containing allegations of a criminal nature about FAS. Its director general Rody Molloy commissions an internal audit team to look into the investigations.

2005 - As a result of the audit, FAS passes on certain information to the gardai for an investigation which is still ongoing.

2006 - The internal audit team completes its report, which details a series of irregularities in the handling of its advertising budget.

February 2007 - The State spending watchdog, the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG), who had not been told about the internal audit, is finally informed.

May 2008 - The Comptroller and Auditor General publishes his report, which showed there had been a "failure to achieve value for money" with FAS advertising. This included the setting up of a Jobs Ireland website at a cost of €1.7m when it already had a similar website. Around €160,000 in incorrect payments were claimed by advertisers who added on percentages to their bills.

June 25, 2008 - Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny raises the issue of financial mismanagement in FAS in the Dáil. His party had obtained part of the internal audit report under the Freedom of Information Act.

Mr Molloy receives the backing of Taoiseach Brian Cowen.

June 2008 - A senior FAS executive at the centre of the allegations into financial irregularities goes on sick leave.

July 2008 - Mr Molloy is quizzed about the FAS allegations at the Oireachtas Enterprise Committee but tells TDs that his organisation has "nothing to hide".

September 2008 - Tanaiste Mary Coughlan asks the Comptroller and Auditor General to carry out another report into FAS. But she is told by the Comptroller, who is an independent officer, that he wishes to wait until the conclusion of the Public Accounts Committee hearings.

October 2008 - Mr Molloy makes his first appearance before the Public Accounts Committee, which is examining how it spent its €9m budget for advertising and PR. But after a heated meeting, the committee decides to call him back for a further session.

November 5, 2008 - The Public Accounts Committee suspends its hearing into FAS due to the failure of the agency to provide requested documents in a timely manner.

November 23 - The 'Sunday Independent' publishes details of FAS spending by senior executives, including €640,000 spent on foreign travel in just four years.

Mr Molloy charged the State agency $942 for a game of golf in the Grand Cypress Resort Golf Club in Florida and brought his wife, Noreen, on several flights to the US at taxpayers' expense.

November 24 - Mr Molloy gives a lengthy radio interview to RTE's Pat Kenny in which he defends the level of spending on overseas travel. Taoiseach Brian Cowen says he has "every confidence" in him

November 25 - Molloy resigns after opposition leaders criticise the "splurging" of taxpayers' money.

Taoiseach Brian Cowen says that he has asked FAS chairman Peter McLoone for a report.

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