UL boss convenes meeting over €2m payouts

An audit of nearly €2m worth of severance payments has led the University of Limerick’s new president to call for an extraordinary meeting of its highest decision-making body.

UL paid out a total of €1,903,833 in settlements to 57 former employees within the past decade.

All universities are obliged to notify the Department of Education and Skills before any severance terms are approved.

Five of the 57 payments made by UL were six-figure settlement agreements, totalling €954,387. They included individual payments of €231,506, €220,332, €182,506, €155,043, €150,000 and €15,000.

The figures relating to payments were released under the Freedom of Information Act to the Limerick Leader.

Meanwhile, a further 18 redundancy agreements were made, the largest of which was an individual payment of €79,518, in addition to 33 statutory payments.

Deloitte carried out an internal audit of severances this summer, as directed by the Governing Authority audit and risk committee, and following the appointment of its new president, Dr Des Fitzgerald.

The auditors made a number of recommendations for implementation which necessitated an extraordinary meeting of the Governing Authority to be held, correspondence shows.

UL is not disclosing, at this point, the specifics of these recommendations as the second state review into a wide-ranging series of allegations of misconduct at UL is due to be published in the coming weeks.

The audit has, however, been passed to Dr Richard Thorn, former president of Sligo Institute of Technology who has been leading that review for several months.

UL’s Governing Authority appointed a new sub-committee to consider the recommendations and any additional steps the university executive would undertake.

“Specifically, the Deloitte internal audit examined the issues of severances, conflict of interest and further training,” stated UL president, Dr Des Fitzgerald.

“The internal audit also examined how the university reported these matters, in particular to our regulatory agencies, the Comptroller & Auditor General and the Department of Education and Skills,” said Dr Fitzgerald.

“I believe the outcome of this exercise will be important to the university and will be central to helping resolve the issues that have arisen and furnished with the information from the audit, addressing the allegations that have made against the university,” he said.

Dr Thorn has examined up to two dozen complaints made against UL by current and former staff, in a wide range of areas, but primarily in finance, human resources, and governance.

He said that the legal advice sought in respect of severance packages and “whether or not it [severances] was appropriate, or overly used” has been carefully examined.

Dr Thorn confirmed the report, which runs to nearly 70 pages, will be passed to the Higher Education Authority and the Department of Education and Skills next week, along with specific findings and recommendations.

It is expected that legal advice will be sought before the document is released publicly.

Among the severance payments already in the public domain include the sum of €150,000 to a lecturer to terminate their employment after being accused of allegedly inappropriately touching students and making inappropriate sexual remarks.

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