Cork Institute of Technology (CIT) has pledged to review the way it purchases art following criticism that it spent €20,000 on portraits of its president and the then chair of its governing body.
CIT president Dr Brendan Murphy has confirmed that two portraits were commissioned from artist Mick O'Dea, a member of Aosdána, in 2007.
Dr Murphy said the college – which is carrying a €1 million deficit – spent a further €2,214 on framing his portrait and that of Dr Paddy Caffrey, who was chair of its governing body until 2008.
The details are contained in new correspondence sent to the Dáil's Public Accounts Committee (PAC), which has been examining the financial accounts of a range of third-level institutions.
The spending on the portraits was first documented in an audit by KPMG which found the college had breached its own procurement policies by not selecting at least five quotations for the portraits.
Members of the PAC have expressed surprise at why students at CIT’s Crawford College of Art and Design had not been considered.
Fianna Fail TD Marc MacSharry said his research indicated that portraits of two previous holders of these offices – director Patrick Kelleher and and chair Donal O’Rourke – were completed by a student at the college for a fee in the region of €500.
Dr Murphy told the committee when he was questioned by Senator MacSharry that he was unaware of any such previous arrangement.
It has also emerged that the institute spent €3,600 on media coaching for Dr Murphy and others ahead of CIT’s appearance before the PAC in December 2015.
Correspondence between Dr Murphy and the committee shows the college engaged Mills Public Relations to provide the training.
Training was also sought from a Dublin-based public relations firm, the Communications Clinic, in relation to potential questions over the college's proposed merger with IT Tralee as part of plans for a new technological university.
The college has spent €40,000 to date with the firm as part of a fixed-price contract for public relations services linked to the proposed Munster Technological University.
Dr Murphy is due to retire at the end of August having served as president since 2004.
A process to recruit a replacement earlier this year did not end with a permanent appointment.
College registrar Dr Barry O’Connor is to take over as interim president from September.