Longford Westmeath ETB fraud inquiry launched

Probe not connected to separate missapropriation investigation

Liam Cosgrove

Reporter:

Liam Cosgrove

Email:

liam.cosgrove@longfordleader.ie

ETB

An investigation into a near €100,000 suspected fraud at Longford Westmeath Education and Training Board is not linked to a separate inquiry into the alleged misappropriation of funds from a third level course in a secondary school in Longford, the Leader understands.

Gardaí are investigating the circumstances behind the incident which emerged with the board’s recently published 2016 accounts.

That revealed a loss of €96,527 which stemmed from a suspected fraud during 2016 “in relation to a third party providing training to students”.

In a report signed by the board’s chairman Frankie Keena, it was revealed more stringent protocols have been installed to avert similar incidents from occurring in the future.

“Since the incident, tighter controls have been put in place around recording of attendance and the payment of students. A process is in place to ensure monies will be refunded to the ETB,” wrote Mr Keena.

In a statement to the Leader on Monday, CEO Christy Duffy confirmed an investigation had since been launched.

“LWETB has informed all the relevant authorities in relation to this matter,” he said.

“When the investigation of the incident is completed, all appropriate actions will be taken by LWETB.”

The Leader has learned the investigation is not connected to a probe still under scrutiny dating back to 2013 concerning alleged misappropriation of funds from a third level course in a Co Longford secondary school.

This newspaper broke the story at the time when money principally used to fund student college fees remained unaccounted for.

The situation first came to light after a certified UK-based body raised doubts about the prospect of students being able to sit their exams.

“The course is accredited by a company in London,” a source confirmed at the time.

In the event of preventing such a scenario, the VEC are understood to have covered any outstanding monies owed in the event of investigations continuing.

Cllr Seamus Butler, who sits as one of three locally elected representatives on the board, said he was satisfied with the way ETB chiefs had reacted to last week’s developments.

“It would appear claims were made by an outside contractor for work that may not have been carried out,” he said.
“Measures are, though, being put in place to make sure that doesn’t happen again.”

Cllr Butler said the fact the incident was detected and acted upon swiftly only served to highlight the “rigorous” nature of LWETB’s own internal auditing system.