Lecturer forgoes NUI Galway pension

 

A LECTURER who held full-time positions in two colleges for more than a decade earned €146,000 a year, the Public Accounts Committee has been told.

The committee also heard that Fergal O’Malley, who is in his 40s, will receive his full deferred pension from Athlone Institute of Technology when he reaches normal retirement age.

Mr O’Malley resigned from both posts in November 2007 after it emerged that he had been employed by NUI Galway and Athlone Institute of Technology on a full-time basis since May 1999.

His pension contributions to NUI Galway have been returned and he is not entitled to any pension there. Mr O’Malley, an engineering lecturer, earned €81,000 a year in Athlone and €65,000 a year in NUI Galway.

During yesterday’s meeting, Fine Gael’s Jim O’Keeffe said he was intrigued that neither institution had noticed the situation over a 10-year period.

The case is hugely embarrassing for both colleges, but it also raises questions about staff management. The committee heard that staff in some colleges were resisting efforts for closer monitoring.

The chief executive of the Higher Education Authority, Tom Boland, said colleges were anxious to introduce this, but there were some industrial relations issues. A balance had to be found between unfettered academic freedom and a kind of “managerialism”.

Brigid McManus, secretary general of the Department of Education, acknowledged there were certain rigidities in the contract for lecturers in the institutes of technology. They are required to lecture 16 hours a week, while they will begin summer holidays on June 20th.

In a report, comptroller and auditor general John Buckley said it was “disturbing that some lecturers have a belief that their obligations to an institute of technology are exhausted upon delivery of contract hours which are set in terms of a norm of 16 hours per week.”

Asked if the O’Malley case was typical, Mr Boland said some staff were “swinging the lead” but the great majority worked well in excess of their contracted hours.

He wanted to reassure the committee that new systems had been put in place to to ensure no repetition of the case.

The Athlone institute president, Ciarán Ó Catháin, said Mr O’Malley had fulfilled his teaching and tutorial obligations throughout his period of employment there.

NUIG president James Browne said the university conducted a detailed review of internal processes and procedures since the case came to light. This resulted in more rigorous controls on external work by academic staff.

He said the nature of academic endeavour was such that it must operate in an environment of trust and academic freedom in order to allow for innovation and creativity.

“The breach of that trust in the O’Malley case has led the university to treat the incident with the utmost seriousness and to take prompt action to prevent its recurrence. NUI Galway’s approach to academic freedom is now to trust and verify.”