Sinn Féin members of the Public Accounts Committee Imelda Munster TD and Matt Carthy TD have welcomed a report of the Comptroller and Auditor General commissioned by the Public Accounts Committee into financial governance at Educational Training Boards.
Teachta Munster said:
“This report highlights a number of glaring failings in the financial reporting and governance of ETBs.
“Over six years ago, the process of rationalisation to move from the 33 Vocational Education Committees to the new structure of 16 ETBs began. That since then the C&AG is raising matters such as board members not receiving packs in advance of meetings and even poor attendance at board meetings makes a farce of the rationalisation process.
“In 2018, the C&AG flagged a number of issues relating to one ETB that has since led to a number of Garda investigations – I would have expected that this would give the Department of Education the impetus it needed to help ETBs get their affairs in order.
“However, what seems to be the most consistent recurring theme in this report is the Board members of the ETBs struggling to complete a complicated rationalisation process without adequate departmental support.
“The Department of Education will be before the PAC in the coming weeks and I will be demanding answers from them as to how they intend to support ETBs to fully implement the recommendations of the C&AG’s report.”
Teachta Carthy said:
“This report has arrived at a timely time as the PAC has only in recent weeks reviewed the operations of the National Shared Services Office and Office of Government Procurement.
“When engaging with those offices a picture emerged of reforms that were introduced after the last financial crisis which have never been fully implemented.
“While the OGP seems to struggle to fulfil its existing remit and lack interest in policing its own guidelines, the NSSO project has yet to deliver with a budget overrun north of 100%.
“In recent weeks the PAC has also engaged the HSE with regards to its financial management systems and procurement issues, and now this ETB report has shed similar light on that sector.
“In particular, ETBs seem to be operating multiple outdated financial management systems individually, seriously calling into question the ability of the department to take a statewide viewpoint on the sector.
“At the same time, it is a near weekly occurrence that the C&AG draws attention to the accounts of a specific ETB for significant non-compliant procurement.
“It seems that the issues of the OGP and NSSO are replicated, if not in an even more sorry state across multiple government departments and agencies.
“The purposes of these projects were to introduce cost savings and increase transparency, yet what seems to be emerging is a web of related projects all of which are behind schedule and delivering questionable results.
“What is the point of a National Shared Services Office, or an Office of Government Procurement, when various Departments and state agencies are replicating the exact same functions, while running into the exact same issues?
“This calls into question the efficiency of the reforms introduced after the last crash, and ultimately the performance of the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform to deliver on its remit over the last decade.”