Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 21 August 2014

Training agency 'needs real reform'

Mary Coughlan said there would be a reformed body in place by the new year

Plans to revamp State training agency Fas have been branded a rebranding exercise that avoids tackling the problems at the root of the organisation.

Tanaiste and Education Minister Mary Coughlan said there would be a reformed body in place in the new year that would assume the work of the scandal-hit employment agency.

But Fine Gael said the move can only be regarded as a rebranding exercise as no concrete reform proposals have been outlined.

Fergus O'Dowd, education spokesman, said: "A litany of scandal at the highest levels in Fas has been exposed over the last few months. Real reform is needed or else the same malpractice will occur again.

"This is especially true as dedicated people within the agency who do good work have been frustrated and undermined by the scandals. Unfortunately, Mary Coughlan, Fianna Fail and the Greens don't see things this way and seem intent to simply rebrand the organisation rather than instigate reform."

A spokesman for Ms Coughlan said there were no plans to scrap Fas and replace it with a new organisation. He added the plans centred on refocusing the training aspect of the organisation.

Earlier this month, it was revealed a private contractor providing training schemes for the agency had been referred to gardai for suspected fraud.

The organisation has also recommended that gardai be called in to probe a training company involved in a separate Fas-linked course. Concerns revealed last October about the quality of the training qualifications led to Fas undertaking a review of 304 of its courses across the country.

Ms Coughlan told the Dail that a revamped organisation would be in place in 2011.

"In addition to the restructuring of the higher level sector, it is my intention that in the new year we will see a renewed and freshly mandated training agency assume the training work of Fas," the Tanaiste said. "Our focus on quality in the past has served us well but we do need to do more.

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