Government to look at recouping from colleges for ‘governance breaches’

Public accounts committee to discuss remuneration of senior staff at UL and Sligo IT

Governance at the University of Limerick is due to  be scrutinised by the public accounts committee on Thursday.

Governance at the University of Limerick is due to be scrutinised by the public accounts committee on Thursday.

 

The Government is considering recouping monies from institutes of higher education where governance breaches have been found, it has emerged.

The Secretary General of the Department of Education Seán Ó Foghlú is due to appear before the Public Accounts Committee on Thursday to discuss the remuneration of senior staff at the University of Limerick and the Institute of Technology Sligo.

A report by the Comptroller and Auditor General last year raised concerns in relation to the manner in which both institutions remunerated certain senior staff members.

It found that two executives at a University of Limerick subsidiary company were added to the university’s State-funded pension scheme at a cost of more than €1.2 million even though they were not university employees.

The report also examined the practice of awarding “professional added years” for pension purposes. UL awarded a total of 324 added years between 2012 and 2016 which cost the exchequer an actuarially estimated €1.27 million by increasing the amount of lump sums paid out to retirees upon their retirement.

The report also looked into two severance deals at UL in 2012 which have been the subject of a previous report by the C&AG. It found the university “misrepresented the circumstances around the severance deals” by failing to disclose that it had entered into three-year consultancy contracts with both managers at the same time as the severance deals were agreed.

The combined severance/consultancy arrangement put in place resulted in estimated additional costs to the UL of €310,000.

In his opening statement, Mr Ó Foghlú is expected to state that the Department will look into recouping certain monies.

“The Department is currently examining the matter of recoupment of funding

from higher education institutions where governance breaches have been identified and considering the most appropriate options available to it in that respect.

“The potential recoupment of monies from the institutions referred to in the special report will be considered in this context,” he will say, referring to the C&AG’s report.

He will say that he wishes to “emphasise the seriousness with which the Department regards the types of governance issues that have been raised”.