Further overspending by former WIT president revealed

Fri, Oct 5, 2012, 01:00

COMMITTEE OF PUBLIC ACCOUNTS:REVELATIONS OF further overspending by the former president of Waterford Institute of Technology and a “mix-up” of receipts for the hire of private jets by him were made at the Oireachtas Committee of Public Accounts yesterday.

The committee heard from Tom Boland, chief executive of the Higher Education Authority, and Seán Ó Foghlú, secretary general of the Department of Education, as they addressed last week’s disclosures to the committee about ballooning non-pay expenditure by the former WIT president between 2001 and 2008.

It increased from €30,000 in 2000, just before Prof Kieran Byrne took up the post in 2001, to €635,000 in 2008. Among the outlandish expenses outlined last week was €4,200 spent on chartering a plane to fly from Waterford to Dublin in March 2007.

Since last week, said Mr Boland, WIT has discovered there were in fact three flights rather than one, and that the invoice for €4,200 related to the private hire of a plane to fly from Filton airport, near Bristol in England, to Dublin and back, in June 2007.

The March 2007 private flight from Waterford to Dublin cost €769.56.

All three journeys were undertaken by Dr Jim Port, a consultant assessing the institute’s application for university status.

Mr Boland stressed the flights were arranged by Prof Byrne and not at the request of Dr Port.

Committee chairman John McGuinness asked Mr Boland why the second invoice had not been outlined in a report by Deloitte and Touche on spending at the institute. Mr Boland said the first report, which had cost €25,000, had been a preliminary survey conducted under time pressure, while a more thorough one, costing €64,000 so far, was under way.

Mr McGuinness said he did not care what kind of time pressure they were under.

“Mr Boland, you spent €25,000 on a report. I don’t care what rush they were in . . . They should have forensically examined the matter and this should have come to light.

“We are not getting the full facts upfront either from WIT or from Deloitte and Touche, who it looks like are now running up a tab of €64,000.”

Fine Gael TD Paschal Donohoe said the situation beggared belief. He added representatives from WIT should be asked to return to answer further questions.