Thursday 18 January 2018

SIPTU calls in fraud squad over €5m 'slush fund'

Luke Byrne, Colm Kelpie and Grainne Cunningham

THE country's biggest union SIPTU has referred issues relating to a controversial €5m "slush fund" to the Garda Fraud Squad.

Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) John McGuinness has also asked the State's spending watchdog to carry out a full investigation into how monies from a training fund were used to pay for lavish foreign travel and expenses for HSE and trade union officials.

Last night, a row erupted between SIPTU and Mr McGuinness as the PAC chairman accused the union of "playing games".

But SIPTU president Jack O'Connor defended the union's decision to go to the gardai, saying that he had referred two specific issues, relating to two lodgements totalling €380,000.

This was the amount identified as unaccounted for by HSE internal auditor Dr Geraldine Smith at a PAC hearing in December.

She told the committee she had expected detailed records and income and expenditure accounts when she examined SIPTU documents but they were not there.

When asked if the union was withholding information, Dr Smith replied "Possibly, yes".

For over two years, the HSE has been investigating how up to €5m from the SKILL training fund for health staff was used to pay for lavish foreign travel and other expenditure for government, HSE and trade union officials.

Even though the account bears the SIPTU name, the union has always denied having authorised it.

The account signatories were SIPTU health division organiser Matt Merrigan and shop steward Jack Kelly.

Irish Independent

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