That Fás 'slush fund'

Fás is back on the news pages today, this time it’s about a “slush fund” which the Department of Enterprise Trade and Innovation is accused of ‘sponsoring’ between 2002 and 2008. The fund, also known as the Competency Development Programme, was a sort of grant scheme for organisations who were to use the money to up-skill staff. There are serious questions being raised about how it was administered and monitored.

The latest company which benefited from the CDP to come under the microscope is Foras Training. Today’s Irish Independent

A COMPUTER-TRAINING company that falsified the number of people on its courses was paid almost €1.3m by the state agency FAS.

The midlands-based company — which was named in the Dail yesterday as Foras Training — claimed for people whom it had not trained.

It also had only one properly registered trainer out of 25 for courses that it delivered on behalf of FAS. The company printed its own training certificates, instead of registering them with a certifying body.

Furthermore, as Roisin Shortall noted at the Public Accounts Committee yesterday, bodies associated with social partnership benefited enormously from the CDP. Many of these bodies would have had representatives on the board of Fás. The Irish Times covers the committee meeting here.

A number of months ago myself and Gav began looking as Fás from a number of different angles. During that process we obtained documents relating to the CDP. These gave us list of companies and the figure for funding they received each year. Interestingly a large number of those in the CDP were local authorities. Why a semi-state body would be funding a state body to train civil servants, I struggle to understand.

I’ve put together a spreadsheet with the names of organisations who received funding, see below. The figures are not included as of yet because the spreadsheet was auto-extrapolated from PDFs of scanned pages; the software used to do this seems to have been confused by some fonts involved so the numbers would not be reliable if I were to publish them now. I’ll manually insert these into the spreadsheet in the coming week and post again then. I will say that the first thing I noticed was that the annual totals increased massively from just €500,000 in 2003 to more than €50 million a few years later, then fell by almost 50% afterwards. Strange, during a period of pretty much full employment.

Companies; Fás Competency Development Programme 2003-2008

Whatever about the annual totals or reasoning behind the fluctuations, that just half of the organisations in receipt of finding were being monitored for how they spent the money or who was being trained, according to the C&AG, is scary. That’s a helluva lotta money slushing about…

The main beneficiaries, at first look at the spreadsheets, were IBEC, ICTU, Mandate and ISME. It appears the Unions and ‘representative’ bodies between them took a large slice of the whole pie. There are also few companies with intriguing directors listed. I may get around to these in the next blog post, but I’ll have to pick a few legal brains first