I met with the Chairman and some members of the Board of FÁS on 28 November and expressed my disquiet at the events that had taken place in the Public Affairs Division in FÁS. At the meeting the Board assured me that action has been taken to deal with these matters. It also assured me that more robust structures with enhanced controls are now in place. This will help accelerate the audit work already underway in the corporate affairs area. It will also help FÁS to interface with the Comptroller and Auditor General in his examination of the effectiveness of the management and control systems in FÁS, which I understand the Comptroller and Auditor General will begin shortly. The FÁS internal audit function is also being strengthened.
The Board also agreed that a full examination of past practices is required to ensure that the organisation can move forward with best practice corporate governance procedures in place. I understand that the normal annual C&AG internal audit examination is already currently underway in FÁS. This audit will include an examination of internal procedures and governance arrangements within FÁS.
Following my instruction in June 2008, FÁS reports to my Department on a quarterly basis detailing the remedial action taken in respect of the issues raised by the audit reports. In addition, my Department has written to the Chairman of the FÁS Board seeking clarification as to whether Department of Finance circulars regarding travel and subsistence have been adhered to in respect of foreign travel for the period since 2001. The Department has also asked FÁS to clarify that the Department of Finance circulars are currently being adhered to by FÁS.
In my view, FÁS should continue to remain focused on its core mission, given the employment and training challenges currently facing the country, and I would express my strong support for the work of the new interim Director General, the Chairman and the other members of the Board in that regard. I would, in particular, like to acknowledge the on-going commitment and importance of the staff of FÁS in helping us to meet the Labour Market challenges we are facing now and into the future.