WIT takes action to recover €110,000 from former president

Institute estimates sum is amount of ‘personal benefit’ allegedly gained

Waterford Institute of Technology has launched High Court action against its former president Prof Kieran Byrne to recover more than €110,000 spent on a range of flights, hospitality, books and subsistence. Photograph: Paddy Whelan/The Irish Times

Waterford Institute of Technology has launched High Court action against its former president Prof Kieran Byrne to recover more than €110,000 spent on a range of flights, hospitality, books and subsistence. Photograph: Paddy Whelan/The Irish Times

 

Waterford Institute of Technology has launched High Court action against its former president Prof Kieran Byrne to recover more than €110,000 spent on a range of flights, hospitality, books and subsistence, the Public Accounts Committee heard today.

The €110,000 is the amount of “personal benefit” the institute has determined the former president allegedly gained from spending by his office of almost €1 million.

Auditors Deloitte identified some €368,000 in expenses which were insufficiently documented, and the institute having consulted with the former president subsequently determined Prof Byrne should repay at least €110,000.

Prof Byrne is understood to be contesting the case.

Separately, the institute is seeking to take control of a campus business set up during Prof Byrne’s tenure which relates to the running of the Carriganore Sports Complex and Manor Village Student Accommodation. The college estimates the business is worth €20 million.

While auditors found there was no evidence there was any personal gain to the former president from the campus business, the relationship between the company and the institute was “unique among institutes of technology”, current president Dr Ruaidhri Neavyn told the Dáil Public Accounts Committee this morning.

The Oireachtas committee heard that among the spending by Prof Byrne’s office was some €3,500 on a business class flight to Chicago for the president himself, while the chairman of the institute travelled on the same flight in economy class.

The difference between the cost of an economy flight and the business class flight is among the amounts being sought from Prof Byrne by WIT.

The committee heard a report from accountants Deloitte dated May 2010 detailed spending on taxi trips between Dublin and Waterford, fine art, hospitality and subsistence.

It detailed €290,000 on hospitality expenses, €263,000 on travel expenses, €134,000 on fine art and €18,400 on flowers.

It also detailed a payment to Bell Airways of just under €1,000 for the charter of a plane to transport a visitor from Waterford to Dublin in 2007.

The committee heard a second chartered flight to bring four people from Bristol was approved by Prof Byrne at a cost of €4,200.

The report says Prof Byrne did not seek formal preapproval of travel expenses, as required under the institute’s travel policy.

The committee also heard a revolving and locking security door had been installed in Prof Byrne’s office at a cost of almost €4,000. Gerald Nash TD asked the current WIT president if the security door had been “designed to keep people out, or to keep the president in”.