Weird and wonderful fantasy world of FAS

The musical chairs of investigations surrounding the State training agency FAS continues apace.

Now let’s be clear here, the aim of all these investigations is not, I repeat, not to uncover the truth and bring alleged wrongdoers to account. No, the aim is to give the impression that action is being taken so that we can all continue to pretend that we live in a normal, functional democracy.

There are at least two Gardai investigations in progress but these can be immediately discounted. It’s rare, very, very rare for the Gardai to actually follow through on such investigations; it is likely they will be allowed to run into the sand

The Public Accounts Committee is also investigating the matter although ‘investigating’ is probably too strong a word, it might be more accurate to say they’re ‘looking into the matter’.

However, because the committee includes opposition TDs there is a slight possibility that somebody might be made ‘accidentally’ accountable. This, I believe, is why Tanaiste Mary Coughlan is trying to transfer the job to the so called independent Comptroller and Auditor General.

The C & AG, who has no legal power to act on any findings, produces very ‘government friendly’ reports as we saw from his whitewash report into Bord na gCon.

In that report he uncovered very serious corruption, fraud and incompetence yet concluded that

“In material respects the financial affairs of the company were properly run.”

Yes, the C & AG is the man for the job.

Indeed, Taoiseach Brian Cowen said as much recently.

“The comptroller’s report into the training body would ensure that the good reputation of the organisation would be upheld.”

I’m sure the report will do exactly that Brian!

Here’s an up to date list of the weird and wonderful ways FAS spends taxpayer’s money.

Huge amounts of money spent without obtaining the necessary authority from the board of FAS. (Echoes of the Bord na gCon scandal here).

An advertisement contract given to a local newspaper, possibly in a pub, where it is alleged match tickets were exchanged for the contract.

€1.7 million spent on duplicating a website that already existed.

An exhibition contract of €250,000 given to somebody at double the going rate.

A general disregard for normal procurement procedures within the organisation.

Hair and beauty treatment.

Pay per view movies.

Golf games.

Dinner for 33 persons at the Merrion Hotel at €200 a head.

€640,000 travel expenses on flights to the US over the last four years.

Chauffeur services.

Staff with credit card limits of €76,000.

Gifts given to various people including a €500 glass barometer presented to the former Minister for Education when she visited a FAS operation in the US.

€1,633 for flowers at a FAS function in the luxurious Carton House Hotel.

€146,000 on hotels in 2005.