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Dublin: 4 °C Thursday 12 December, 2019
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SIPTU accused of withholding information from slush fund inquiry

The Public Accounts Committee urges the trade union to co-operate with a probe into unaccounted payments to a training fund.

PAC chairman John McGuinness has warned SIPTU that its officials can be compelled to appear at the committee if they do not co-operate with other inquiries.
PAC chairman John McGuinness has warned SIPTU that its officials can be compelled to appear at the committee if they do not co-operate with other inquiries.
Image: Laura Hutton/Photocall Ireland

IRELAND’S LARGEST trade union SIPTU has been accused of withholding information from an inquiry into a controversial bank account which was used to fund overseas trips for senior officials and their spouses.

The Dáil’s Public Accounts Committee yesterday heard that €190,000 paid into the controversial ‘National Health and Local Authority Levy fund’ – which accrued over €5m from various sources – could not be traced.

The €190,000, which was paid into the fund in 2001 and 2002 after being sanctioned by the Department of Health, was transferred with the intention of being used for training SIPTU healthcare workers.

HSE director of human resources Sean McGrath accused SIPTU of withholding information about the fund after a Department of Health official told the committee that a SIPTU report had not fully answered questions about the fund.

The official, Geraldine Smith, also told the committee how SIPTU’s financial advisers said they were “not authorised” to answer certain questions she had put to them in trying to investigate it.

SIPTU says it had no evidence of the €190,000 ever being lodged into the account, which was controlled by a senior SIPTU official, Matt Merrigan, and a senior union member Jack Kelly.

TDs attending the committee were highly critical of a former civil servant Alan Smith, who had signed off on the release of the €190,000 to the SIPTU fund but who refused to c0-operate with the inquiry citing ill health.

Nobody from SIPTU was in attendance at yesterday’s meeting, with the union later claiming it had not been invited to attend.

Committee chairman John McGuinness insisted the committee could use its powers of compellability to force SIPTU officials to attend if they were not fully co-operative with the investigation.

Over €4.5 million was paid into the account over the course of a decade, despite the account not being under SIPTU’s formal control. It emerged last year that the cash had been used to fund overseas trips for senior SIPTU officials and public servants.

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Gavan Reilly

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