Fás write-off of €1.1m an ‘incredible waste of money’
Site purchased by agency for €1.5 million in 2005 under decentralisation now worth €150,000
Labour’s Derek Nolan described the costs associated with the abandoned decentralisation of the Fás headquarters in Co Offaly as “an incredible waste of money for no benefit”.
The write-off of €1.1 million on a temporary Fás office and a site purchased by the agency for €1.5 million – now on sale for a tenth of that amount – has been described as an “incredible waste of money.”
The public accounts committee (PAC) heard yesterday that, on foot of a 2004 government decision to decentralise the State training agency to Birr, Co Offaly, Fás took a 10-year lease on a building in the town for €100,000 per year. It also purchased a site for €1.5 million in 2005, which was intended to house the agency’s permanent headquarters.
However, following decisions by the Government in 2011 and 2012 to disband the agency and abandon decentralisation of its headquarters, the lease on the Birr property was broken and €1.1 million spent on a fit-out written off.
Director general of Fás Paul O’Toole said the site purchased for €1.5 million in 2005 was now on sale with a minimum value of €150,000.
Committee member Derek Nolan described the costs associated with the abandoned decentralisation of the Fás HQ in Offaly as “an incredible waste of money for no benefit for really a policy which was questionable in the outset”.
The PAC also heard an inquiry was launched in Tipperary over potential inappropriate spending of €150,000. Mr O’Toole said the matter had been reported to gardaí. He said it related to whether payments in relation to a job initiative scheme had been spent appropriately.
Earlier the committee heard from the secretary general of the Department of Skills Séan Ó Foghlu regarding a Comptroller and Auditor General (C&AG) report on the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund. The fund was set up in December 2006 for retraining redundant workers.
Fine Gael’s Simon Harris questioned why €11 million allocated under the fund went unspent, particularly in relation to the publicity budgets to create awareness of the programmes.
Mr Ó Foghlu said the department was “not happy to be returning any amounts at all” but said the maximum amount requested was never realised and that this was also the experience elsewhere in Europe.