Dáil Éireann - Volume 595 - 16 December, 2004

Priority Questions. - FÁS Training Programmes.

  4. Mr. Hogan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the company which was involved in the assessment work referred to in a report (details supplied) presented to FÁS on 23 October 2003; his views on whether a fraudulent act has been committed by the company; the amount paid to the company by those seeking the necessary qualifications; the action which has been taken to recoup the money paid to that company; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33882/04]

  Mr. Killeen: The company referred to in the question by the Deputy has issued High Court proceedings against FÁS and these proceedings are currently ongoing. In the circumstances it would be inappropriate for me to comment on the matter raised by the Deputy while these proceedings are extant.

The report to which the Deputy refers was commissioned by the FÁS executive and I understand that progress has been made in the implementation of the report’s recommendations. The objective is to ensure that best practice and quality assurance is maintained in the delivery of the construction health and safety schemes operated by FÁS. Any outstanding matters relating to the Deputy’s concerns will be addressed when the legal proceedings have been concluded.

  Mr. Hogan: I asked the Minister for State to name the company. There is a sensitivity about naming it, but it is Omlink. It operates as an assessment centre in Trim, County Meath, where 250 workers sought training under the construc[998] tion skills programme which is recognised by FETAC. Those 250 workers who were obliged to undergo training for the purposes of gaining qualifications for working on sites under the building regulations, did not receive that training. Will the Minister for State say if re-training is currently being carried out for workers who should have been trained by the company but were not? How much did each person have to pay to participate in that course? How much did the company draw down from them?

  Mr. Killeen: I am informed that 239 people have been offered retraining by FÁS arising from the difficulties relating to Omlink. The offer has been made to the people involved and full training will be made available to them in lieu of the difficulties which came to light. In the interim, FÁS has introduced an entirely new system for the training of people in the construction area and I understand this is progressing satisfactorily.

  Mr. Hogan: The Minister for State does not know how much money was drawn down by the company. I understand that Omlink drew down about €100,000 from the participation of those trainees. It is outrageous that the Minister of State should say today that 239 people are being retrained when this matter was brought to the notice of FÁS in February 2003. There are construction skills people on building sites over the past two years who are untrained, which is the direct responsibility of the company involved. FÁS knew about this in February 2003 when it received a complaint from a west of Ireland construction company. Nothing was done.

Was the Fraud Squad brought in? The sum of €100,000 was drawn down by this company. What effort is the Minister making to retrieve this money from the company? Will he confirm what fraud investigations took place, because in effect this is fraud at its worst? What was done by FÁS or by the Minister, as far back as February 2003, to seek redress from the company, to seek the return of the money, to bring this company to heel and take it off the assessment list?

  Mr. Killeen: As I said at the outset, this matter is currently subject to legal proceedings and it is a matter for the courts rather than for me to adjudicate on whether fraudulent activity has taken place. FÁS has provided the opportunity of alternative training for the people involved and when the matter before the court has been cleared up, the intention is to pursue the company for the moneys mentioned by Deputy Hogan.