DCU’s ‘major, once off’ accounting issue caused delay in filing financial statements

Issue arose from the consolidation of different parts of college, PAC hears

DCU is planning to submit this year’s accounts by the end of February 2020

DCU is planning to submit this year’s accounts by the end of February 2020

 

Dublin City University suffered a “major, once off” accounting issue last year which prevented it from filing its financial statements to the State’s spending watchdog on time.

The issue arose from the consolidation of different parts of the college, DCU has told the Oireachtas Public Accounts Committee.

In a letter to the committee, the university wrote that the transfer of staff and students from the formerly independent St Patrick’s College, Mater Dei Institute of Education and the Church of Ireland College of Education gave rise to “significant accounting challenges over the succeeding years”.

The three institutions were also legally incorporated and their activities moved under the ambit of DCU in what the college described as “the largest and most complex transformation project undertaken in higher education in Ireland in recent decades”.

Transition

The issues arising from the transition are detailed in a letter from DCU president Prof Brian MacCraith to the committee, which had written to the university over its failure to lodge its accounts on time with the Comptroller & Auditor General (C&AG).

While the project was completed in the college’s 2016/2017 financial year, Prof MacCraith’s letter reveals that the accounting challenges arising from the consolidation persisted over the succeeding years.

The use of a specific set of accounting standards to effect the changeover – termed the “incorporation project” – meant that “a very significant body of work had to be undertaken by DCU to rework and restate the previous financial results” of the three previously autonomous institutions so they could be incorporated in DCU’s overall financial reporting.

Audit cycle

“The accounting for the incorporation project has therefore had a once-off, but highly significant, impact on the 2017/2018 financial year-end financial reporting and external audit cycle,” the university said, stressing that it did not believe the issue would repeat again in subsequent years.

The university’s financial reporting situation is further complicated by the existence of 10 commercial subsidiaries within the DCU Commercial Group, each of which have to have separate financial statements prepared for inclusion in the university’s overall accounts. This means that the company’s financial statements must be completed before the overall university’s accounts are signed off, adding to the time required to produce the financial reports.

According to the letter, which was sent to the Public Accounts Committee after its chairman Sean Fleming wrote to the university last month, the C&AG’s audit of DCU’s 2017/2018 accounts will not begin until next week. The university is planning to submit this year’s accounts by the end of February 2020.