UL president denies claims of ‘hush money’ paid to staff

Independent investigator failed to uphold allegations of financial irregularities

The president of UL, Professor Don Barry, has dismissed as untrue claims that two staff members who raised concerns about alleged irregularities in expenses payments to staff at the institution, were offered ‘hush money’. Photograph: Alan Place/Fusionshooters

The president of UL, Professor Don Barry, has dismissed as untrue claims that two staff members who raised concerns about alleged irregularities in expenses payments to staff at the institution, were offered ‘hush money’. Photograph: Alan Place/Fusionshooters

 

The president of the University of Limerick has dismissed as untrue claims that two staff members who raised concerns about alleged irregularities in expenses payments to staff at the institution were offered ‘hush money’.

It was reported earlier this month that the employees, who are now suspended, were offered €60,000 each to leave their jobs after raising concerns relating to the allocation of funds.

An independent investigator and appeals process failed to uphold the allegations of financial irregularities and found them to be malicious in their intent, while an investigation into the claims is currently underway by the Higher Education Authority (HEA).

Earlier this month the (HEA) said it was unable to investigate allegations of poor practices and mistreatment of staff in University of Limerick without concrete evidence from the complainants.

Speaking at the launch of UL’s new strategic plan on Friday the college’s president, Professor Don Barry, said the allegations were untrue.

“No, it is not true. These allegations cause me concern because they have potential to damage the reputation of the University and the reputation of the University is very important to everybody who works and studies in the institution, and indeed for everyone living in the Mid West Region. I would urge the HEA move rapidly and investigate these allegations and we will cooperate fully with that to see a speedy conclusion to this issue. “

“The reputation of the University is something that is held very dear by those who work and study here and anything that happens to raise question marks over that reputation I take very seriously.

Professor Barry denied that there was any “internal document” and said the University needs to get “some specifics around what the allegations actually are and the HEA still await those specifics and then they will communicate to us and we will respond in a fully open manner.”

When asked about the matter during a visit to the University of Limerick on Friday Minister for Education Jan O’Sullivan: “These are allegations and they are being investigated by the Higher Education Authority and I know that the University is full cooperating and I don’t think it would be appropriate for me to say anything more than that. There is an investigation and of course allegations have to be taken seriously.”

The two administrative staff members at the centre of the story first published by the Limerick Leader newspaper, claim they have been victimised for highlighting alleged financial mismanagement in UL, which they say they first raised two years ago.

But the university, through its solicitors, said the allegations of poor practice had only surfaced last May, some time after they had been found to have made a “malicious complaint” against colleagues.

Limerick TD Willie O’Dea has said he may refer the matter to the PAC, having been approached by the two staff members, who are now suspended on full pay in accordance with public sector guidelines.

“These two women are constituents of mine of and they came to me about their situation and I am not happy with how UL are responding to it,” he said.

“They claim there has been an abuse of the expenses system in UL, which involved public money, and they say the reason why hostility is being directed on them is because they have drawn attention to it.”