Problems found in more Fás courses, says Haughey

 

PROBLEMS HAVE been found in more Fás courses in the northeast after it emerged that exam results in some had been “fixed” by the contractors running the programmes.

Minister of State Seán Haugheytold the Dáil the Tánaiste wanted the House to know that the State training agency “has identified a number of other current potential certification issues in the northeast region in respect of other courses. Certificates have not been issued pending a review of the relevant assessments, which is currently under way.”

Fergus O’Dowd(FG, Louth) had already revealed details of an internal audit of a number of courses, showing “fixed” course results, where trainees were passed who should have failed. Raising the issue for the second day running, he said the company involved had provided seven courses for €1 million.

“The credibility of the awarding of the results goes to the heart of the lack of integrity in Fás and the rottenness in the system from top to bottom.”

Mr Haughey, standing in for the Tánaiste, revealed there were problems with other courses. And he said that “Fás has indicated that it will undertake a review of all current contracted training courses to ensure they are fully compliant.”

Mr O’Dowd had also expressed outrage that the company was given further contracts even though Fás knew the course results were fabricated, but the Minister of State said Fás did not believe it had a legal basis to terminate the contract while the internal audit was under way and the report was being prepared.

He added that the company had paid for retraining in one of the courses and the Tánaiste had asked Fás to see how much of the costs of retraining and re-assessment it could recover for others.

Earlier, the Dáil passed the second stage of the Labour Services (Amendment) Bill to restructure the Fás board. Minister of State Dara Callearysaid “misconduct can take place in any organisation. . . even where proper internal financial control structures are put in place”. He said those who “possess information regarding matters about which they have concerns” about Fás should bring it to Ministers’ attention.

Róisín Shortall(Labour, Dublin North-West) accused Fianna Fáil of being “the dead hand on Fás” since its establishment. It was dysfunctional because it was dogged by “scandal, corruption, low standards and ineptitude”.

It was a “sinecure of Fianna Fáil and there has been gross political interference in that organisation from top to bottom”. She believed the legislation was regressive and would make Fás less rather than more accountable.

Ruairí Quinn(Labour, Dublin South-East) said four senior civil servants from four departments were on the board of Fás. “What were they doing in respect of the unacceptable practices that emerged?” he asked. Mr Quinn said that “unless there is a proper mechanism in place to allow a civil servant to report” to their department “we will not improve the operational capacity in Fás”.