Several months ago as part of a dig into a wider Fás story we obtained copies of documents showing money distributed by Fás via the Competency Development Programme. The CDP was funded by the European Social Fund and National Training Fund.
As has been reported elsewhere a spot-check by the EC into the audit trail Fás was responsible for implementing on the programme raised serious cause for concern. This “audit of the auditing process” resulted in Ireland withdrawing an application to draw down €57m of ESF funds over the last 10 months. Prior to that there were stories about companies who benefited from the programme doctoring course results to brighten up their training standards. Ashfield Computer Training was one such company, earlier this month we published the audit on which this Irish Independent story by Shane Phelan was based.
We did a story on how the CDP was distributed for The Sunday Times last weekend (unfortunately behind a paywall, it’s on page 8, if you’ve a copy). An analysis of the figures available found that almost one-fifth (more than 19%) of funds went to bodies associated with social partnership. Five of the top 10 beneficiaries were social partners, each receiving more than €2m.
IBEC was allocated most funds, €5.6m over the six year period. Chambers Ireland received €5.2m, while the Construction Industry Federation, ICTU and SIPTU benefited by €2.5m, €2.4m and €2.1m respectively.
IBEC, SIPTU and ICTU are all represented on the Fás board. Of the 17 board members, 8 are nominated by IBEC and ICTU.
The Irish Management Institute, National College of Ireland, Dublin Institute of Technology, Optimum Limited and Solar Training Limited completed the top 10. Each benefited by between €1.7 and €4.5m, with the Irish Management Institute topping that list.
PDFs of the CDP documents released to us under FOI nearly 12 months ago are available here. We’re holding onto the spreadsheets for now as we may analyse them further for a later story.
Looking at the years you may notice 2007 seems to have a disproportionately low number of companies and a higher total distribution figure. The number of companies who benefited decreased massively from 339 in 2006 to just 50.
It appears this is due to the way the European Commission administers funding.
ESF money, like all European money, is released and must be spent under what’s known as ‘N+1’ rules, ‘N’ being the last year of the spending cycle. A member state has until the end of year N and another 12 months (the ‘+1’) to spend the money, otherwise the money goes back to the fund to be re-allocated.
Fás was responsible for distributing much of Ireland’s ESF allocation via the CDP. The last spending cycle ended in 2006. So the Fás board, it seems, had some ESF money left over which it had to spend or send. It spent it but there were very few beneficiaries. A quarter of money that year went to social partners.
There’s more in the CDP but those stories are for another post. The figures are there, download and print them if you so wish. Some interesting companies are listed which we may return to in coming days or weeks.
If you notice anything eyebrow-raising feel free to drop me an email or give me a bell. My details are kicking around.
Footnote: I’ve been asked about the process through which the money was distributed. Two bodies told me two similar but slightly different processes, so this may not apply to all involved (perhaps that’s part of the reason for the withdrawal of the ESF application).
BODY A would run a training course, either by contracting an approved training company or by using their own qualified trainers. Up to 70 percent of the cost of running the course would be covered by the CDP.
BODY A would then invoice both Fás and the participating company for 70 percent and 30 percent (or other proportions) of the fee respectively.