Concern over State body spending

 

Enterprise Ireland, the organisation responsible for growing Irish businesses abroad, spent two thirds of its budget on administration and only a third on grants in 2008, a Dáil committee was told today.

Examining the Comptroller and Auditor General’s report for the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Innovation, the Dáil Committee for Public Accounts was told of a €160 million budget for Enterprise Ireland in 2008, over €100 million was spent on administration and general expenses. Just over €56 million was spent on grants to industry.

In 2009, the figures were €94.4 million on administration and over €100 million on grants to industry.

Fianna Fáil deputy Seán Flynn said he was concerned about the 2009 figures, but the figures for 2008 were “utterly alarming”. He asked secretary general of the department, Sean Gorman, if there was a chance they might have “another bit of a Fás”.

Chairman of the committee, Fine Gael deputy Bernard Allen, asked if the department was satisfied with all of the expenditure incurred by Enterprise Ireland, including foreign travel and entertainment.

Mr Gorman said a lot of the work carried out by the organisation was “on the ground” with people and companies, and there was also a lot of overseas work carried on because of the nature of the organisation. He said the department had communicated new guidelines on travel and expenses to all of the agencies under its auspices and the chairman of each agency had to certify compliance with those guidelines.

“We take that statement as read,” he said.

C&AG John Buckley also outlined irregularities in funding through training organisation Skillnets that cost the exchequer €50,000 in 2009. The organisation, a limited company that offers training to employees in private businesses, received €16.5 million from the department’s national training fund in 2009.

Mr Buckley detailed failures uncovered after anonymous allegations were made in February 2010 about a training provider. After investigation, it was discovered that of 24 courses paid for, eight courses had not been delivered and a further eight were delivered to companies not members of the Skillnet network that paid for them. It also found for courses that did not take place, there were trainee profile sheets, evaluation forms and signed attendance sheets on file.