HIRING six forensic accountants for the Office of Director of Corporate Enforcement took more than two years amid chaos over getting the jobs approved and advertised.
At one stage, ODCE boss Ian Drennan said the entire process had been “nothing short of a disgrace” and that he was “mortified” about the prospect of a job advertisement filled with errors appearing in the national press.
The corporate enforcer also warned that it was being “compromised” on procurement laws because it did not have the capacity to analyse large amounts of electronic evidence.
The ODCE told the Department of Jobs that it did not have the in-house skillset to deal with huge amounts of data that had been seized as part of its investigations, including the Anglo probe.
The corporate enforcement office had first asked for a computer expert to be hired in 2014 but the appointment did not take place until nearly three years later.
600 pages of emails and internal records that catalogue a depressing saga.
CHILDREN’S Minister Katherine Zappone has been warned that childcare schemes across the country are wide open to the potential for fraud.
In a submission, Ms Zappone was told there were “serious concerns” over the Department’s ability to monitor around €340 million in annual spending.
The memo said the current system allowed services to make “over-claims” and that it was impossible to be sure that funding was being used for the reasons it was provided.
More than twenty schemes were identified where the number of children officially registered was much higher than the numbers of kids actually attending.
Five separate schemes benefitting more than 100,000 children each year had been introduced in a “piecemeal fashion … at different times and when governance and compliance requirements were less clear”.
The submission was seen by Minister Katherine Zappone in April of this year who said she wanted a pragmatic approach to dealing with the problems raised.
Alarm bells had been set off in December 2014 when an audit of one childcare facility discovered over-claims of around €500,000. It is currently the subject of a garda investigation.
However, the internal memo warned that the problems identified were “systemic in nature” and could only be dealt with by new law, strong rules, sanctions, and new contractual requirements for service providers.
THE Department of Public Expenditure said RTÉ needs to cut costs more before any commitment should be made to give them extra funding.
RTÉ should be asked to review loss-making public service broadcasting and even look at what services it was providing, an internal Departmental briefing note says. The memo for Minister Paschal Donohoe was prepared as part of discussions over the sale of lands at the broadcaster’s campus in Montrose.
It said that both RTÉ and the Department of Communications were looking for funding for the broadcaster to be restored to 2009 levels when it was €20 million higher. However, the Department of Public Expenditure said that they “did not necessarily accept that further additional Exchequer funding should be provided or that the level of Exchequer funding should be restored to its peak”.
IRISH Water’s parent company Ervia looked for a €250,000 salary for its incoming chief executive despite being told the pay for the position had to be €30,000 less.
The appointment of former Bórd Na Móna executive Mike Quinn was eventually agreed with a pay package of €225,000, a hike of €5,000 on what had originally been agreed on by government.
Departmental documents obtained under FOI by Right to Know also show how Ervia, which runs Irish Water along with gas networks in Ireland, was having serious difficulties in finding a candidate for the job.
Internal records from the Department of Communications explain that 187 different candidates had been identified for the job originally.
However, many had withdrawn “due to the complex nature of the job” and what was described as a “significant gap in salary expectations”.
This is a datadump of all spending by the Department of Foreign Affairs across a wide range of categories for 2015.
Included is the €46,000-a-month spent on renting a residence for the Ambassador in Tokyo, as well as the €5,400-a-month for a home for our most senior diplomat in the Vatican. Also in there is the €165,000 for an armoured car for our man in Ramallah, and €60,000 for a non-armoured Mercedes Benz for the Ambassador to the United Arab Emirates.
It includes €250,000 for furniture removal, and just over €220,000 on business class flights out of a €2million+ bill for airfares. About €180,000 was spent on hotels, with the biggest bill of €5,752 charged to the protocol division by the five-star Glenlo Abbey in Galway for hosting the German President.
Another large cost was “maintenance”, mostly to houses and embassies rented by the department. One contract was just over €210,000. Cars cost more than €750,000, with €69,000 spent in Ethiopia, €64,000 in Mozambique and €37,000 in Uganda — countries in which Irish Aid, the state’s overseas aid agency, is active.
A bill of €475,000 was run up on official entertainment, while a chauffeuring company was paid more than €50,000. Dublin Airport Authority was paid €16,400 for VIP lounges and other services.
Across the network of embassies and consulates, the bill for cable and satellite television came to €72,000 with the highest at Ireland’s UN office and consulates in New York. Cleaning bills for the diplomatic buildings exceeded €1m. The department also paid €186,654 in “settlement costs” to former local staff at the Irish embassy in Lesotho, following its closure in 2014.
Here are some internal Dept of Finance documents on the move of a senior civil servant from the Department of Finance to Bank of Ireland.
Michael Torpey, who was employed on a salary of €200,000-plus annually, was transferred to the NTMA for three months and told not to work in his area of expertise – as part of a ‘cooling off period’.
He was asked not to return to his desk after Christmas because he had agreed to take a job in Bank of Ireland and was instead dispatched to the National Treasury Management Agency where, despite being an expert in banking, he was forbidden from working on any matter relating to it. Mr Torpey had been a key figure in the Department of Finance’s work on the restructuring of banks before being poached by Bank of Ireland late last year. He was due to begin work at the bank this month.
Once he announced his intention to leave his job, the Government insisted on a three-month ‘cooling off period’ funded by the taxpayer, according to documents released under Freedom of Information legislation. Mr Torpey’s move to Bank of Ireland caused concern in the Department of Finance, where there were issues raised over a possible conflict of interest.
Sinn Fein’s Pearse Doherty has raised questions over the move pointing out that Fine Gael had committed itself to a two-year cooling off period for senior civil servants moving to the private sector. He explained: ‘Michael Torpey – and I don’t want to cast aspersions on him personally – as head of state shareholder management unit had very sensitive information on all of the banks and now he has a senior appointment with Bank of Ireland.
“He has information on AIB – they are a direct competitor. And now to take up an executive position in a rival bank leads to all sorts of problems and all sorts of issues.”
The Department of Finance had said Mr Torpey would be subject to the provisions of the Official Secrets Act. But as Doherty said: “There is no “Men in Black” style machine to wipe his memory and say forget everything you knew.”
Elaine Byrne has also been looking at this area and published an interesting report on the increasingly frequent nature of such moves.
This story is by Ken Foxe and based on a recent story in the Mail on Sunday: Documents obtained under FOI are below.
A politican is suspected to have run up a bill of more than €1,600 calling a single mobile phone number in Pakistan, an unpublished Oireachtas memo has claimed.
Officials in Leinster House’s telecoms unit estimated that calls to a ‘very small number’ of foreign numbers were costing the taxpayer at least €14,000 per year.
Other costs included an estimated €1,249 bill for calling a mobile in Australia, €581 to a mobile in Lithuania, €381 to a Maltese mobile, €370 to a UK mobile, €366 to a South African landline and €331 to a landline in Cyprus. The officials admitted they were powerless to establish whether the expensive calls – made in 2010 – were legitimate as they don’t track who TDs and Senators call on their taxpayer-funded phones.
But the memo stated it was ‘difficult to imagine’ how they could be genuine. ‘It is difficult to imagine what Oireachtas business would give rise to calls costing €1,621 to a single Pakistani mobile phone number, and it would be irresponsible to consider the possibility that such calls might have been an unintended/improper use of the service provided. Without availabe data it is not possible to make any judgement on the matter.’
The discoveries were made after a report was commissioned following the ‘Ring of Kerry’ controversy in which a €2,639 bill was run up dialling a premium phone line to vote for Michael Healy-Rae, who was a contestant in the Celebrities Go Wild TV show.
That led directly to a ban on calls to premium rate numbers from all Oireachtas phones and immediately eliminated any potential for abuse. These unpublished memos, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, were prepared internally but never sent forward for consideration by spending watchdogs.
The Oireachtas has confirmed they are now planning a review of telephone services to look at the risk ‘of inappropriate use, or excessively expensive use of telecoms facilities. However, tackling the problem of politician’s personal phone bills has proven difficult because of the cloak of secrecy that surrounds them.
The Oireachtas operates a screening process for calls and if civil servants, and other similar staff, run up excessive bills – the costs are immediately red-flagged. But this screening does not apply to TDs or Senators, which means inappropriate use of phone facilities can never be investigated.
There is a proviso on the above figures in that they are based on seven months of usage, with a twelve-month figure extrapolated from the January to end July cost.
(This is a story featured in the Mail On Sunday, by Ken Foxe)
A politician ran up a €95 bill on one single phone call but Oireachtas authorities have no way of tracking down who made it.
The same person is understood to have run up more than €344 in costs on five separate phone calls to Colombia, records from the Oireachtas show and details of which were published in the Irish Mail on Sunday.
The single most expensive call, made in May of this year, to an unidentified number in South America ended up lasting one hour and three minutes. It was made during peak time and charged at a rate of €1.50 per minute with the final bill coming in at precisely €94.79.
The hundred most expensive calls from the Oireachtas have cost the taxpayer in excess of €3,400 since the beginning of 2011.
However, there is no way of checking on the vast majority of these calls and whether they relate to legitimate business or were simply keeping in touch with family members or friends abroad.Phone calls made by TDs and Senators, under law, are not logged for ‘reasons of privacy and confidentiality’ meaning their legitimacy can never be checked.
The costly calls form part of more than €280,000 that will have been spent providing free telephony to politicians and staff during the past two years.
Two of the ten most expensive calls listed on Oireachtas records were made to Colombia with the second costing €86.06. Seven of the most expensive calls were made to Kenya, mostly at peak time, and cost between €61.44 and €79.51, while a further call to Mozambique cost €76.01.
Enormous bills were also run up on calls that seem inexplicably long with a 17 hour phone call listed on January 20. That call, made to an Irish phone number at peak time, ended up costing the taxpayer €36.72 and was attributed to ‘faults in [a] broadcasting line’. Two other marathon phone calls are also listed in the Top 100 with a 14 half hour call costing €31.28 and a 13 hour one costing just under €30.
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