So they say that they did not know ?????????????????????? Justice – Not on my scales.

The Irish Times – Saturday, June 25, 2011
Official to be demoted over Siptu levy account

MARTIN WALL, Industry Correspondent

A SENIOR Siptu official who controlled a controversial bank account which was used in part to pay for overseas trips for public officials, is to be demoted.

Matt Merrigan, who is a divisional officer with the union, is to be demoted to the rank of sectoral organiser. It is understood his pay levels and employment conditions will be reduced accordingly.

The decision to demote Mr Merrigan was taken by Siptu’s general secretary Joe O’Flynn following receipt of a report drawn up by a barrister into his employment relationship with the union.

Over the last year, various investigations into the Skill training fund controversy found that more than €4.5 million in State funding had been paid into an account known as the Siptu national health and local authority levy fund. The account was controlled by Mr Merrigan and a long-standing Siptu member, Jack Kelly.

Funding drawn from the account was used to pay for more than 30 foreign trips undertaken by senior civil and public servants as well as by officials of trade unions and others.

Siptu has consistently maintained that it knew nothing about either the bank account or the money paid into it from various State sources including the Department of Health, the HSE and a local authority partnership body.

Mr Merrigan has seven days to lodge an appeal to be heard by the union’s president Jack O’Connor or its national executive, or both.

It is understood the report by barrister Richard Kean said any penalty to be imposed by the union would have to be proportionate to the evidence.

It is understood to have found there was evidence that Mr Merrigan opened a bank account without authorisation and that he failed to keep records on how money put into that account was spent over a period of seven or eight years.

It is also understood that the Kean report found that Mr Merrigan failed to apply consistent criteria for the disbursement of money from the account.

However, it also found that Mr Merrigan had not gained personally on a financial basis from the account. The report is also believed to maintain that the purpose for establishing the fund – the upskilling of workers in lower grades – was worthy. It pointed out that he had had 30 years of otherwise unblemished service.

On foot of the report, the union is understood to have considered that termination of Mr Merrigan’s employment was not appropriate but that there was evidence that he had not displayed the level of judgment required to perform the function of a divisional officer.

The Kean report is also understood to have maintained that as Mr Kelly, who was the second signatory on the account, was not an employee of Siptu, his involvement would have to be dealt with under the union’s disciplinary process for members.

Meanwhile, nearly €700,000 still in the Siptu national health and local authority levy fund is to be sent back to the Department of Finance. Siptu has not commented on the issue on the basis that an appeal by Mr Merrigan may be pending. Mr Merrigan could not be contacted yesterday.

However, in a statement given to Siptu as part of its internal investigation into the controversy several months ago, he said that senior civil and public servants were invited on overseas trips to persuade them of the merits of upskilling and career progression for lower-paid health and local authority staff.

Study visits to the US and elsewhere were aimed at convincing senior management of the potential value and feasibility of the culture change that was being proposed. The staff involved were considered by some as an “overhead that should should be deskilled and outsourced”.

The HSE said last night that it welcomed the return of money in the national health and local authority levy fund account to the exchequer.