Monday 22 October 2018

'Thick-skinned' hurling fan braced for tough new round of questions

Michael Brennan

RODY Molloy is a GAA-loving career civil servant who was first appointed as director general of FAS eight years ago.

Prior to that, he had served in a number of government departments including Industry and Commerce, Department of the Taoiseach and Foreign Affairs.

He rose to the level of assistant secretary at the Department of Enterprise Trade and Employment, where he gained much of the experience needed to run FAS.

Originally from Birr, Co Offaly but living in Maynooth, Co Kildare, he is known as a good communicator, once basking in praise from then Taoiseach Bertie Ahern for his work in FAS as the unemployment rate plummeted during the economic boom.

Mr Molloy is a big hurling fan, telling a Dail committee recently he had tickets to Croke Park, which is his "principal interest in life".

He and his wife Noreen have four children.

Allegations

But his troubles began when an anonymous letter was sent to then Enterprise and Employment Minister Mary Harney in 2004, containing criminal allegations in relation to FAS.

In response, Mr Molloy commissioned an internal audit team to look into the accusations, but its existence was kept hidden for two years from the state spending watchdog, the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG).

It was only when the CAG published his own report earlier this year, which showed there been a "failure to achieve value for money" with FAS advertising, that the public realised that not all was well in the state agency.

A senior employee at the agency is currently on sick leave and two separate garda investigations are ongoing into companies which had contracts with FAS.

Since then, Mr Molloy has been grilled about the controversy by the Public Accounts Committee and he is due to answer further questions on Thursday.

One of the questions the members want answered is why Mr Molloy criticised his own internal audit team for extending their investigation "without the courtesy of advising senior management" and for an "almost endless expansion of the investigation".

As head of FAS he is in charge of 2,300 employees, and oversees a budget of €1bn. He earns an annual salary of €203,000 and last year he received a performance-related bonus of €35,458.

He has said that he is "fairly thick-skinned" himself when it comes to negative comments and is more concerned about the effect these could have on the morale of FAS staff.

But even someone with the hide of a rhinoceros would be apprehensive about the prospect of another session before the Public Accounts Committee in the wake of the public outrage over three-ball golf, first-class flights and luxury hotel accommodation for himself and other FAS staff.

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