20 February 2009 | Andy Allen
FÁS, the Irish national training and employment authority, has failed to adhere to proper procurement procedures over the last five years, according to a review by a parliamentary committee.
The Public Accounts Committee of the Oireachtas (Irish parliament) assessed FÁS' spending since 2003 and found ?7 million (£6.1 million) worth of procurement was not subject to competitive tendering.
It said ?35 million (£30 million) spent on advertising between 2003 and 2007 was not allocated according to a coherent strategy. The report added that it took three years for the issue undermining procurement processes to be formally brought to the board.
Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, Bernard Allen, said:
"There was a serious lack of oversight at corporate and executive level throughout the agency which led to wastage and excess. A culture of apathy and extravagance seems to have pervaded the organisation, with a distinct lack of any proper systems of checks and balances."
The committee has made recommendations to ensure that corporate governance measures are strengthened in FÁS and the whole public sector to minimise the risk of a re-occurrence of what went on at FÁS.
For example, it recommended the FÁS review its disciplinary code and develop an early warning system so that board members are kept informed of audit results.
Allen added: "Significant sums of money were wasted meaning a loss to the taxpayer. There are a lot of lessons that apply not only to FÁS but to the wider public service, arising from what is covered in the report."