CHILDREN’S Minister Katherine Zappone has been warned that childcare schemes across the country are wide open to the potential for fraud.
In a submission, Ms Zappone was told there were “serious concerns” over the Department’s ability to monitor around €340 million in annual spending.
The memo said the current system allowed services to make “over-claims” and that it was impossible to be sure that funding was being used for the reasons it was provided.
More than twenty schemes were identified where the number of children officially registered was much higher than the numbers of kids actually attending.
Five separate schemes benefitting more than 100,000 children each year had been introduced in a “piecemeal fashion … at different times and when governance and compliance requirements were less clear”.
The submission was seen by Minister Katherine Zappone in April of this year who said she wanted a pragmatic approach to dealing with the problems raised.
Alarm bells had been set off in December 2014 when an audit of one childcare facility discovered over-claims of around €500,000. It is currently the subject of a garda investigation.
However, the internal memo warned that the problems identified were “systemic in nature” and could only be dealt with by new law, strong rules, sanctions, and new contractual requirements for service providers.