Councillor on WIT body defends €57k expenses

A Fine Gael councillor from Co Kilkenny has defended the fact that she received fees and expenses totalling almost €57,000 since Apr 2010 in her role as a member of the governing body of Waterford Institute of Technology.

Figures supplied by WIT to the Dáil Public Accounts committee show Mary Hilda Cavanagh received the vast majority of all fees and expenses totalling almost €79,000 paid to local authority representatives on the institute’s governing body, as well as WIT chairman Redmond O’Donoghue, over the past three and a half years.

Ms Cavanagh, a Fine Gael member of Kilkenny County Council, was paid €56,513 during the period.

A former secondary school teacher, she received €32,100 for chairing interview panels at WIT as well as €14,554 in related travel expenses. In addition, she was paid €9,859 in travel expenses for attending meetings of WIT’s governing body.

Details of the payments, which were supplied by WIT president Ruaidhrí Neavyn to the PAC, show Ms Cavanagh received twice as much as the combined fees and expenses paid to eight other local authority representatives on the institute’s governing body.

Her party colleague, John Fahey from South Tipperary County Council, was the next highest paid member with combined fees and expenses of €5,787.

WIT pays a daily fee of €300 for chairing an interview panel. Ms Cavanagh said yesterday that she attended more than 100 panels during the period. “I am a full-time public representative and I am available for the work of chairing interview panels,” she said. “Other members have full-time jobs and aren’t as readily available.”

She explained that her high mileage payments were due to the cost of travelling from her home in Crosspatrick, near the Co Laois border, to Waterford. She stressed she only received 48% of the total after tax and PRSI was paid.

A spokesperson for WIT said all expense claims by all members of its governing body were “legitimately and correctly submitted and vouched”.

WIT is currently involved in a High Court action seeking to recoup over €110,000 spent on expenses by its former president, Kieran Byrne, in an alleged breach of procedures.

The Higher Education Authority is currently examining the issue of expenses at ITs and how much has been paid to members of governing bodies since 2009.

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