Allegations of irregular expenses claims at UL to be examined

HEA to appoint external investigator after its chief executive met whistleblower

An external investigator is being appointed by the Higher Education Authority (HEA) to examine allegations of irregular expenses claims at the University of Limerick (UL).

The authority said it planned to appoint a barrister or accountant to carry out the inquiry after its chief executive Tom Boland met one of the whistleblowers in Limerick on Tuesday.

Leona O'Callaghan, who had initially raised concerns about irregular expenses in 2012 and subsequently left her post in the university's finance department, told The Irish Times she was delighted with the announcement.

“This is great, because I don’t want them to take my word for anything. I want them to take my information and check what I am saying. All I want is accountability.”


Ms O'Callaghan has come forward with the information about alleged irregularities after two current employees went public with similar allegations last month.

Mileage payments

Among the allegations are that certain staff received mileage payments for journeys between their home and the university, and that expenses claims for irregular items, including the delivery of a fitted kitchen for one relocating staff member, were approved.

Ms O’Callaghan said her position became unsustainable when she challenged these expenses in the university.

“All I wanted was a sense of fairness. For the ‘joe soap’ and students it’s extremely strict for expenses. It was all to do with who the person was claiming, not what was claimed for, and that is where I struggled.

“I stopped a muffin for €1.50 on the same day I paid for the fitted kitchen. If you were on the VIP list you played by different rules,” said the Castletroy mother of three.

UL, which strongly denies the allegations, said it welcomed the announcement of the investigator.

“We again urge the HEA to bring this review to a prompt conclusion and we look forward to co-operating fully with this process,” the university said in a statement.

‘No further queries’

UL noted the allegations had been referred in 2012 to the Comptroller and Auditor General (C&AG) for follow-up. The university then supplied information to the C&AG and “there were no further queries, nor were requests for further information”.

Of the allegations of the two current employees, the university said it appointed Deloitte, the university’s internal auditors, to carry out an independent investigation last summer and it had received “no information to support the allegations to date”.

The HEA said it was seeking to complete the inquiry within as short a period as possible for the benefit of all concerned.

Joe Humphreys

Joe Humphreys

Joe Humphreys is an Assistant News Editor at The Irish Times and writer of the Unthinkable philosophy column