Molloy took 16 trips in three years but had a 'problem with flying'

 

DIRECTOR'S RESPONSE:FORMER DIRECTOR general of Fás Rody Molloy took 16 overseas trips in 3½ years, but had difficulty flying, the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) heard yesterday.

And Gerald Pyke, retired assistant director general at the State authority, took 13 trips in 4½ years.

Mr Molloy had travelled to locations including Orlando, New Zealand, Helsinki and New York.

Labour TD Róisín Shortall asked Mr Molloy how he was capable of doing his job when he was away so often.

Mr Molloy said it was part of his role to interact with other major organisations and to go on such trips. He said a number of the trips were with ministers.

He said people in the organisation who knew him would say it was difficult to get him to travel, rather than saying he was anxious to travel.

"I do have a problem with flying," he said.

Ms Shortall said both Mr Molloy and Mr Pyke were in breach of travel policy outlined by the Department of Finance and that they had incurred "substantial expense for the taxpayer".

She said neither man was around enough to do the job they were paid to do. And she suggested this was part of the reason why irregularities had occurred in the corporate affairs section.

Jim O'Keeffe described spending in Fás as "squandermania". He asked assistant director general Christy Cooney if it was a question of "having to find a way of spending" the budget.

"Absolutely not," Mr Cooney replied.

Committee chairman Bernard Allen (FG) said the committee had received a letter from the solicitor of Fás's suspended director of corporate affairs Greg Craig.

The committee heard last week that Mr Craig was suspended pending investigation into financial irregularities in his department. He had later told the media his spending in the corporate affairs section had been undertaken with the knowledge of his superiors.

In a letter, Mr Craig's solicitor said Mr Craig wanted to come before the committee to explain his position, but had been told by Fás he should not discuss the issues under investigation.

Chairman of the Fás board Peter McLoone said Fás had not told Mr Craig not to co-operate with the committee. It had advised him that some details of investigations were confidential.

"It is comforting to know there has been no attempt to gag Mr Craig," Mr Allen said.

"I can assure you of that," Mr McLoone replied.