Today in the Senate I raised the very important Fás and their mammoth budget. I called for the government to examine in far greater detail this State agency, which has been something of a sacred cow for many years.
Recent revelations about activities in the agency are disturbing and uncomfortable and we should be prepared to tackle them. FÁS has a budget of €870 million and the Minister for Finance could consider this as being worthy of severe cuts when he examines cutbacks in the economy next week. Judging by the revelations, it is in danger of becoming a political slush fund and it is difficult to know where the money allocated to FÁS by the Oireachtas and the European Union has been going. Perhaps we should welcome the European Commission asking what is happening to its money and where it is going because the Comptroller and Auditor General had some harsh words to say about FÁS in a recent report. The impression is going abroad – I suspect it is right – that the agency has too much money and too little to do.
During the period of boom and employment, FÁS, although it had a mandate to tackle unemployment, had an inexplicable budget. I do not dispute the organisation does good work and politicians, as a result, are reluctant to tackle the agency because they can always get it as a political favour in their constituency. However, the FÁS budget is an absolute monster and the Minister should examine it in light of recent revelations and announce cutbacks in the House next week.