RTÉ stands over university spending probe

RTÉ is standing over an investigation on spending and governance at third-level colleges as it prepares responses to complaints from two universities.

University College Cork and NUI Galway have submitted complaints over its May 25 RTÉ Investigates programme, Universities Unchallenged.

The programme detailed a range of issues at various colleges, including severance packages at University Limerick to former managers and how it handled two whistleblowers’ allegations about expenses.

UCC corporate secretary Michael Farrell told the Dáil Public Accounts Committee (PAC) this week that the university is not satisfied at how it was represented in the programme.

It featured details about the acquisition last November of the Irish Management Institute (IMI), in a deal that saw UCC pay €20m for the Dublin campus of the institute it took over.

A UCC spokeswoman declined to elaborate to the Irish Examiner on the details of its complaint, saying it awaits RTÉ’s response under the complaints process.

“It will be open to UCC to consider their response and to make a complaint to the Broadcasting Authority, if necessary,” she said.

RTÉ News and Current Affairs said it endeavours to reply to all complaints within 20 working days, which will be July 7 in this instance.

It did not comment on the substance of the complaint or another received from NUIG, on which it says a response will issue by a deadline of next Tuesday.

“RTÉ stands by its programme and refutes any breaching of broadcasting regulations,” it said.

The programme reported that the Higher Education Authority instructed UCC by email last November not to proceed with the IMI acquisition, pending final checking of due diligence. As reported by the Irish Examiner last month, however, UCC had subsequent HEA approval before completing the deal.

It is understood that this information was given to RTÉ Investigates within the timeframe given to UCC to respond before broadcast.

However, RTÉ News and Current Affairs did not respond to this, saying the correspondence and complaints process are confidential at this point.

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