Revenue asked to investigate Co Cork VEC
THE REVENUE Commissioners have been asked to investigate Co Cork Vocational Education Committee in relation to tax irregularities at one of its centres.
This follows an internal audit at Youthreach in Macroom which found some teachers were not paying PAYE or PRSI deductions on their wages.
The audit, carried out in 2010 by the Vocational Support Services Unit, a body set up by the Department of Education and Science to examine systems in all VECs, also uncovered other irregularities at the centre.
Cork Fine Gael councillor Humphrey Deegan, a member of the board of the VEC, said he referred the matter to the Revenue Commissioners after concerns about the audit were raised with him. He said Revenue had since contacted him for further information.
The 2010 audit found two individuals were employed to provide tuition at Macroom Youthreach and were paid through student allowances.
Another teacher was paid directly from a centre bank account without tax deductions.
And a fourth teacher was paid €12,900 through non-pay without deductions.
“Revenue guidelines are that payments to lecturers, teachers or trainers who give a series of once-off or guest lectures for the VEC are subject to PAYE and PRSI,” the report said.
There were also significant variance between teacher hours submitted for payment to the VEC and timetabled hours.
Students should have been given 35 hours a week class contact time, but were getting only 10-12 hours and the duration of the programme was “significantly less than 226 days”.
“I estimate that the VEC overpaid 1,070 tutor hours which were not timetabled for these teachers. A financial estimate of this variance is over €60,000 for the academic year 2009/2010,” the report said.
In some cases “hours were paid when the centre was closed”.
The audit also highlighted that a convicted rapist had been driving for the centre.
It said there had been an arrangement that the individual, who had no taxi or hackney licence, would provide a “taxi” service for students at the centre. It appeared invoices were paid to the individual in cash, the audit report said.
“It is questionable whether this was a legitimate business enterprise,” it said.
The driver was stopped by gardaí in Cork who discovered he had been convicted of rape in the UK. He had also been convicted of road traffic offences.
He was subsequently charged with failing to inform an employer of a sexual offence, contrary to the Sex Offenders Act, 2001. There was no check by Youthreach to see if he had any previous convictions, the report said.
“This irregular arrangement put the safety of the children in this centre at risk,” the report said.
Payments from the Youthreach programme to SuperValu in Macroom were also tracked and till receipts showed minor purchases that “should not have been processed using public funds”.
These included sausage rolls, razors, antiperspirant, crisps, cola and sandwiches.
“Shop accounts should only be used for specific items needed for the operation of the centre,” the report said.
The report also said the use of the fuel account was “unusual”, with a number of cars having access to it.
The report also queried a number of international calls to Romania and the Czech Republic, but noted the bills were minor.
It also found seven student participants in the programme at the time of the audit were ineligible to take part. And it highlighted irregularities in relation to the use of a bus at the centre.
“There are a number of significant issues that need to be addressed to ensure that the centre operates in line with other County Cork VEC Youthreach centres,” the report concluded.
A query to Macroom Youthreach was referred to County Cork VEC. A spokeswoman for County Cork VEC said the chief executive, Joan Russell, had no knowledge of a Revenue investigation.
The Revenue Commissioners have said they do not comment on individual cases.