Rody Molloy: the former Fas director general resigned over expenses scandal

The splitting up of controversial jobs agency Fás between two government departments will cost more than €20m, the Sunday Tribune understands.

The Departments of Social Protection and Education have been earmarked to supervise the new agency but sources say reorganising the renamed agency, which will have 2,000 staff and a near-€1bn budget, will be very costly to the taxpayer.

The Department of Education says the total cost of the new Fás has yet to be finalised but sources say it will be at least €20m, possibly more.

While Fás acknowledges that it has to improve its services after being rocked by scandal in the past two years, questions have been asked as to why so much money is being spent on creating a new training agency that will do the same job as Fás does and with much the same staff.

Two years ago this month, the former director general of Fás, Rody Molloy, resigned after it emerged he and his wife had travelled first-class to Florida to review the Fás space-training programme.

Then enterprise minister Mary Harney, as well as several other union and government officials, also went on these trips to Florida and elsewhere.

The agency has since become embroiled in another scandal concerning incorrectly marked exams in training courses run by outside contractors hired by Fás.

This all culminated in the decision to split Fás, with around 700 staff working on the agency's community employment schemes transferring to the Department of Social Protection.

The training arm of Fás is set to be reborn as a new agency operating under the remit of the Department of Education, which took over the running of Fás from the Department of Enterprise last year.

Last month, Tánaiste and education minister Mary Coughlan said she intended to replace Fás with a new "freshly mandated" state training agency early next year.

But very few details have since emerged about the new agency and it is unclear even whether the Fás name will survive, although this is unlikely.