Monday 16 December 2019

Whistleblower at FAS-funded centre arrested in work

Shane Phelan Investigative Correspondent

A TEACHER whose complaints led to investigations into suspect practices at a FAS-funded job training centre was arrested at her workplace by gardai.

Laura Lyons, a literacy teacher at the Waterford Youth Training and Education Centre (WYTEC), was questioned over a complaint that she unlawfully took possession of confidential information relating to the centre.

The alleged offence falls under the Criminal Damage Act 1991.

Ms Lyons was later released without charge and gardai said a file was being prepared for the Director of Public Prosecutions.

She has denied that she came into possession of data unlawfully. Officers held her for seven hours last Monday after arresting her at the WYTEC premises in Waterford city. She returned to work the following day.

Ms Lyons was one of two teachers whose whistleblowing activities prompted investigations into the running of WYTEC last year.

Both teachers are employees of the City of Waterford VEC.

Separate investigation reports by FAS and an external human resources expert revealed how WYTEC students had carried out construction work on a tutor's property.

One of the reports also highlighted inappropriate spending, poor control of purchasing and procurement and poor record-keeping at the centre.

The findings were accepted by the WYTEC board. However, no one involved faced any disciplinary proceedings.

Teachers' Union of Ireland representative Tom Creedon said the union was unhappy with the circumstances in which Ms Lyons was arrested.

"We accept that gardai have to do their duty," he said. "However, we believe a senior garda or the Garda Ombudsman should explain why it was necessary to for this to happen in the workplace."

Garda denied suggestions that Ms Lyons was arrested in front of students.

WYTEC declined to comment on the matter.

Gerry Morgan, chief executive of the City of Waterford VEC, also declined to comment.

The community training centre received €863,000 in funding from FAS last year, but is not run by the state training agency.

A spokeswoman for FAS said said FAS instigated a monitoring review early last year.

"FAS is satisfied that all (the recommendations) have been implemented," the spokeswoman said.

Irish Independent

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