Fás head defends expenditure on trips to US

 

THE DIRECTOR general of the State training authority, Fás, Rody Molloy, yesterday defended expenditure by the authority on transatlantic trips for himself, his wife, and senior Fás executives.

Fás is the domestic apprentice and training authority, with an annual budget of €1 billion. However, in the period since 2004 it has built up contacts with the US space agency, Nasa, in Florida, as well as with a number of top US research institutes, by way of its Science Challenge programme.

Mr Molloy's trips to the US were in association with the programme. The programme provides an opportunity for Irish students and apprentices to work with top US science institutes.

Mr Molloy responded on the Today with Pat Kenny show on RTÉ yesterday to a report in a Sunday newspaper which stated the authority spent €643,000 on transatlantic travel for Mr Molloy and other senior Fás executives over a four-year period.

Mr Molloy said he was "entitled" to travel first class and exchanged that entitlement for business-class travel for himself and his wife to the US.

"All I can say to you on that is that when a spouse travels in Fás they do so at no additional expense to the organisation unless there is a very specific reason for it.

"There are occasions when it is appropriate. In my own case when my spouse would be with me. . . any time she has been with me there was no additional expense to Fás because I traded down my travel entitlement to allow her to travel . . . so it comes in at less expense to the organisation." He later said he did this on one occasion.

The report in the Sunday Independent said a €200 a head dinner in a private room in the Merrion Hotel in Dublin in 2006 cost Fás €6,962. Tips paid by the authority came to €908.

During a 2005 trip to Florida Fás paid $942 for a three-person game of golf at the Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress Resort in Orlando, with Mr Molloy as the named player on the receipt.

Asked about the golf bill Mr Molloy said: "We are out there developing relationships. I had an opportunity to work with some people as part of building that relationship and I took that opportunity. If that is a major sin then I hold my hands up and say, 'very sorry'."

The Irish Times has established that Paddy Duffy, close associate of former taoiseach Bertie Ahern travelled to the US twice at the expense of Fás. A return flight to Atlanta in January 2004 cost €4,562.31. Mr Duffy also travelled to a ceremony at the Nasa centre in Florida in October 2006. He was an adviser to Mr Ahern up to 1999 and now works in public relations. Mr Duffy said he supports the Science Challenge programme in a voluntary capacity and was invited by Fás on both occasions to travel to the US.

Flight Details

FLIGHTS TO North America by the director general of Fás, Rody Molloy, and his wife cost the authority €67,917 from November 2003 to November 2007, according to documents released to The Irish Times.

Mr Molloy travelled to North America 11 times in the period and was accompanied by his wife five times.

The documents were released under the terms of the Freedom of Information Act and outline the cost of trips Fás said were associated with its Science Challenge programme.

Mr Molloy travelled to Montreal in Canada in November 2003 at a cost of €4,630.72. He travelled to Washington and New York in April 2004 at a cost of €4,291.59 and to Orlando, Florida, and New York in July 2004, at a cost of €4,824.07.

Mrs Molloy accompanied him on the latter trip, at a cost of €4,824.07.

In May 2005 Mr and Mrs Molloy travelled to Boston, Massachusetts, at a cost of €817.02 each. He travelled to Houston, Texas, in April 2006 at a cost of €4,671.67.

In July 2006 he and his wife travelled to Orlando at a cost of €4,863.29 each. Mr Molloy travelled to New York in October 2006 at a cost of €3,107.61.

He travelled to Orlando in January 2007 at a cost of €7,308.13 and to Houston in April 2007 at a cost of €8,966.43. He and his wife travelled to New York in May 2007 at a cost of €6,655.86.

In November 2007 he and his wife travelled to Washington and New York at a cost of €7,281.46.

The former director of corporate affairs at Fás, Greg Craig, travelled to New York and Orlando in January 2004 at a cost of €4,308.16. In June 2004 a flight he took labelled "Atlanta-Melbourne-Orlando" cost €4,941.31. The next month a flight to Philadelphia-Orlando- New York cost €4,495.78.

He flew to Florida in August 2005 at a cost of €1,361, from Orlando to New York at a cost of €136.50, and from New York to Dublin at a cost of €1,183.89.

In April 2006 he flew to Houston at a cost of €4,671.67 and in July 2006 he flew to Orlando at a cost of €4,727.48. In January 2007 he travelled to New York and Orlando at a cost of €3,535.26.

COLM KEENA