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New name 'is pulling a FAS one'.

Byline: KEITH FALKINER

THE man who brought down scandal-ridden FAS has slammed its replacement Solas as a shameless rebranding exercise.

Outspoken Independent TD Shane Ross said the changes at the State training agency have not gone far enough.

And he has called on the Government to keep Solas under close scrutiny to ensure it doesn't waste its EUR1 billion budget on lavish overseas junkets.

In 2008, Deputy Ross - then an Independent Senator - uncovered a litany of financial abuses at FAS.

Through Freedom of Information requests, he exposed how the taxpayer funded agency blew hundreds of thousands on first-class flights to exotic destinations for top offi-cials.

The expose led to the resignation of former FAS chief Rody Molloy, and, ultimately to the downfall of the shamed agency.

In an effort to finally bury the toxic FAS brand, the Government this week launched its replacement Solas - Seirbhs Oideachais Leanunaigh Agus Scileann.

But Deputy Ross told the Irish Sunday Mirror: "This is very much in the early stages and a lot of the old management of FAS are still in their jobs, so the structural changes have not gone far enough.

"It may be under this new name Solas but FAS is far from dead. It has simply being rebranded instead of being wholeheartedly changed."

Deputy Ross found that FAS had charged taxpayers for first class transatlantic flights, games of golf in Florida, lavish champagne dinners and limousine and chauffeur services.

Former Health Minister Mary Harney even billed taxpayers for a $410 hairdo in Florida in 2004.

CAPTION(S):

Cautious... TD Ross
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Publication:Sunday Mirror (London, England)
Date:Jul 31, 2011
Words:259
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