EU funds of €1.5m will be handed back

By Maurice Garvey

UP TO €1.5 million of a European fund, which could be utilised to train young unemployed people in South Dublin County, will be handed back to Brussels this year.

Sinn Féin TD Eoin Ó Broin has called for major reforms in the way the fund is managed, and says vulnerable young people and community projects are losing out as a result.

Lufthansa Technik 2013-1 resized 

The Lufthansa Technik Airmotive Ireland (LTAI) European Globalisation Fund EGF was approved in 2014 – targeting up to 250 of the 424 LT workers affected by redundancy, and up to 200 young persons under the age of 25 not in employment, education or training.

The overall programme allocation is €4.15m, including a 60 per cent EU EGF contribution of €2.49m, and it has to be used by September 2016.

The Department of Education are the managing authority for the EGF.

Solas in Tallaght coordinate EGF supports for the programme in this region, whilst a number of state agencies also draw down funding from the programme.

Under a parliamentary question last November, Minister of State Damien English, stated it “is difficult to accurately forecast the final expenditure” of the fund.

However, documents obtained under Freedom of Information by Sinn Féin TD Eoin Ó Broin “flatly contradict” this claim, and indicate that 63 per cent of the overall fund will not be used.

Deputy Ó Broin said: “Solas, who administer the programme, keep a spread sheet of actual and estimated expenditure.

“The most recent expenditure spreadsheet for the Lufthansa Technik programme was produced five days prior to Damien English’s parliamentary question reply.

“It estimates the Lufthansa programme will only spend €1.5m of the €4.15m by the closing date of September 2016. This means that only €975,000 of the European Commission’s €2.49m contribution will be spent. The remaining €1.5m will have to be returned to Brussels.”

Deputy Ó Broin continued: ‘It is shocking that 63 per cent will remain unspent. This money should be used to provide education and training not only to workers who lost their jobs in Lufthansa Technik, but also to hundreds of young people.”

The figures indicate Solas has an estimated expenditure of 11 per cent, ETB eight per cent, LEO office 28 per cent, and the HEA 46 per cent.

Ó Broin blasted the Minister for “withholding information from the Oireachtas”, and says the underspend has been a feature of previous programmes, and “something the Government knew about when they took office in 2011.”

A spokesperson for the Department of Education, reiterated Minister English’s parliamentary response last November.

The spokesperson said: “As has been previously noted by Minister English, take-up of EGF support measures offered to date under the programme is less than anticipated and lower than estimated take-up rates will result in lower final total expenditure.

“It is also worth noting that the improving national economic climate is evident in the re-integration into employment of 65 per cent of the LTAI workforce as at December 2015, reducing significantly the need to call on EGF supports.”

The Department said “all potential beneficiaries have been contacted” and service providers are “continuing efforts to maximise participation.”

The spokesperson said Ireland’s average drawdown rate of “60 per cent of EU EGF” funding under the seven completed Irish EGF programmes, exceeds the “average 55 per cent drawdown rate across all participating member states.”

The Department say the EGF process in Ireland was comprehensively reviewed in 2012 and has been incorporated into the current EGF programme.

Deputy Ó Broin has called on Minister of Education Jan O’Sullivan to implement urgent reforms to ensure all EGF funding is used, and believes bureaucracy is at the root of the problem.

Deputy Ó Broin said: “Community and voluntary sectors need to know about how to spend the money. A review of the programme is needed the improve and make it better.”

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