Chief executives cannot 'just ride away into the sunset' when use of taxpayers' money at issue

FORMER DIRECTOR general of Fás Rody Molloy was criticised yesterday for not appearing before the Dáil Committee on Public Accounts…

FORMER DIRECTOR general of Fás Rody Molloy was criticised yesterday for not appearing before the Dáil Committee on Public Accounts (PAC).

Mr Molloy had been scheduled to appear before the committee but resigned from his post on Tuesday.

The chairman of the committee,Bernard Allen (FG), said it was "regrettable" that Mr Molloy was not there to help the committee's inquiry into spending at Fás.

Loyalty to the public good still existed even after a public servant had left his job, Mr Allen said, and he formally invited Mr Molloy to appear before the committee next week. He extended a similar invitation to the Fás chairman, trade unionist Peter McLoone.


"I find it incredible that people think they can just ride away into the sunset and leave an investigation into the expenditure of taxpayers' money handicapped," Mr Allen said.

Fás assistant director general Christy Cooney appeared before the committee as the accounting officer.

The committee's inquiry arises from a special audit inquiry into expenditures by the Corporate Affairs division of Fás in the period 2000 to 2004.

In reply to Darragh O'Brien (FF), Mr Cooney said it was broadly correct to say the director in charge of the division in the period, Greg Craig, had a budget at his disposal of approximately €50 million.

Mr Cooney told Tommy Broughan (Lab) that Mr Craig reported to assistant director Gerry Pyke, now retired, and Mr Molloy.

The head of the audit committee on the Fás board, Niall Saul, said the audit inquiry took a long time because "as it went on they just kept discovering more and more stuff".

Mr Saul told Róisín Shortall (Lab) that what was going on was "below the radar of board reporting.

The authorisation was being signed off by other executives who should have asked more questions. If they did that and didn't get the right answers, then they should have elevated it to the board."

Mr Cooney said Mr Craig, who had been out on paid sick leave since June, had recently received medical clearance to return to work. However, a letter had been sent to him on Wednesday informing him he was being suspended on full pay and without prejudice, arising from matters discovered by ongoing audits of the division for 2006 and 2007.

The committee heard that Mr Craig was promoted from manager to director a number of years ago despite a disastrous Jobs Ireland website project that cost more than €1 million and had not received board approval.

Mr Cooney said he was prohibited for legal reasons from telling the board what sanction Mr Craig had received as a result of the internal audit report.

Mr Craig subsequently applied for the position of assistant director general and was shortlisted.

Mr Cooney said the initial interviewing panel consisted of one internal person and two external people. Asking who the internal person was, he said: "That would be me."

Asked if he had told the two external interviewers about the internal audit report, Mr Cooney said he wanted to get legal advice before answering.

Colm Keena

Colm Keena

Colm Keena is an Irish Times journalist. He was previously legal-affairs correspondent and public-affairs correspondent