The Department of Health and the Health Service Executive have said they cannot complete investigations into controversial spending on foreign travel associated with the SKILL training fund, because the relevant documentation is with SIPTU.

Appearing before the Dáil Public Accounts Committee, Secretary General of the Department of Health Michael Scanlon acknowledged there had been serious breaches in how the fund was managed.

Fine Gael TD Jim O'Keeffe described the scheme as a ‘slush fund’.

HSE Chief Executive Cathal Magee told the committee that a breach of financial regulations in SKILL was unacceptable.

The committee is looking into controversial expenses highlighted by the Comptroller and Auditor General and a HSE Internal Audit Report.

They outlined a catalogue of waste of public money and serious breaches of corporate governance, financial oversight and procurement.

Mr Magee has said it was requested that SIPTU reimburse expenses claimed under the controversial SKILL programme.

He said there had been a serious breach of financial regulations at the programme and it was unacceptable.

Mr Magee also said the steering committee of SKILL has been stood down.

The committee was also told that HSE officials did not know what the purpose was of some of the foreign trips that were taken by those as part of SKILL.

In total, 31 foreign trips were taken.

Officials from SIPTU, the HSE, Department of Health and Finance all took part in the visits.

The HSE also said that it has very limited information on the foreign excursions and said SIPTU was in possession of the records.

The committee was also told that €7,000 was claimed in subsistence by HSE officials who took part in the trips.

Mr Scanlan said reports on some of the visits were written up.

He also said some itineraries of the trips did fit in with what was being discussed in the health sector at the time.

The PAC was also told a member of the steering committee was paid thousands of euro for consultancy work given to the group.

The report, which was completed in June, investigated irregularities involving funds for the SKILL training programme for lower grades in the health service.

Some of the funds were paid into an account operated by SIPTU officials.

Yesterday, SIPTU lodged €348,000 with a Commissioner for Oaths to cover potential liabilities for reimbursement of expenses.

However, the union said it had nothing to do with the account and believes it has no liability in respect of money under investigation.

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, PAC Chairman Bernard Allen said the committee had sought extra powers to deal with issues such as this.