University audits touted over lack of clarity

A review of college and university finances may be needed due to a lack of transparency in accounts, alleged commercial conflicts of interest, and concerns over where vital funds end up.

The Dáil Public Accounts Committee will make the claim in a report to be published today, which will call on colleges to publish audited accounts within six months of a year ending and release details of linked private foundation funds.

The PAC report is based on months of meetings with six facilities — Waterford IT, University of Limerick, Cork IT, UCC, Dublin IT, and NUI Galway — chosen because of significant delays in publishing their audited accounts.

During meetings this year, concerns were raised over a €63.5m commercial conflict of interest at WIT, €700,000 in lost DIT funds, and other financial controversies.

However, numerous PAC members have noted some of the issues were not admitted to immediately or only uncovered after senior college officials were ordered to clarify previous evidence.

The PAC report will say greater regulations and a wider review of funding may be needed to determine if this is happening elsewhere.

However, while the Higher Education Authority — which is due to conclude a WIT investigation in October — should oversee such a move, the PAC notes it may need to see its resources significantly increased after failing to prevent the existing controversies.

The Irish Examiner understands the detailed PAC report will also say:

  • All institutions should publish their audited accounts within six months to ensure transparency;
  • They should also publish amount in unaudited trusts and foundation accounts;
  • Enforce new rules, ensuring institutions not individuals benefit from research;
  • And seek greater help for whistle-blowers highlighting concerns.

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