A report by the Comptroller and Auditor General has revealed that payments of more than €100,000 were made over a five-year period to eight students attending a Youthreach second chance education programme at Macroom in Co Cork, even though these students were ineligible for the programme.

The programme was one of seven which were operated by County Cork Vocational Education Committee.

The investigation by the C&AG followed complaints and allegations about the operation of County Cork VEC to the Dáil's Public Accounts Committee.

County Cork VEC was dissolved in July 2013, and its functions transferred to Cork Education and Training Board (ETB).

In a statement released this afternoon, Chief Executive of Cork ETB Ted Owens said that he was committed to ensuring that it delivered education services to the highest standards. 

Mr Owens said that he was committed to ensuring that these services are delivered in compliance with all legislation, procedures and processes.

The C&AG, who reports to the Dáil, is an independent investigator which examines how public funds are spent.

Comptroller Seamus McCarthy extended an audit of the 2011 financial statements of County Cork VEC to examine other alleged financial losses and control weaknesses within the VEC.

Up to its dissolution in 2013, County Cork VEC had an annual budget of around €100 million.

It employed 2,400 staff, catered for around 28,000 students and was responsible for a range of educational and training facilities.

The Comptroller extended his audit of County Cork VEC's 2011 accounts after the PAC received "a large volume of correspondence" which contained complaints and allegations about the operation of the VEC.

In his report, presented to the Houses of the Oireachtas today, the Comptroller says payments totalling €114,000 were made between 2007 and 2012 to eight students attending Macroom Youthreach and that these students were subsequently deemed ineligible for the programme.

The report says the available records about the application and assessment process for the eight students were inadequate, and did not provide evidence to explain their inclusion on the Youthreach programme.

The report also says an internal audit conducted by the VEC in August 2010 identified a number of "weaknesses" over payments to staff at Macroom Youthreach centre.

The report says the VEC paid an estimated €60,000 for 1,070 teaching hours in the year 2009/2010, where teachers were not timetabled to teach.

It says teachers were paid approximated €25,000 for a further 500 administration hours at the Macroom centre in 2009/2010.

Payments were also made to two part-time staff without PAYE and PRSI being deducted.

Two people paid student allowances were not attending training, but were in fact employed to provide tuition in English.

The report also says that a Revenue Commissioners' tax audit of County Cork VEC resulted in a settlement of €115,700 in June, 2013.

The settlement related to tax periods extending as far back as 2003.

Among the other issues covered by the report were eight leases entered into by the VEC, without prior formal sanction from the Minister for Education and Skills, as required by law.

Seven of these leases have since been regularised by way of retrospective sanction.