WIT asked for report on spending

WATERFORD Institute of Technology has been asked to give an immediate report to the state’s third-level funding agency on spending on its president’s office, including more than €140,000 on courier and taxi services since 2004.

The spending by the office of Professor Kieran Byrne, whose 10-year term ends this weekend, is believed to total more than €3.5 million in that period.

The records have been released under Freedom of Information and spending by his office is already the subject of an independent review by accountants Deloitte, ordered by the college’s governing body.

The Irish Examiner revealed last month that almost €21,000 was spent last year on his offices, mostly on furniture and security, even though the office was fitted out to the tune of almost €50,000 as part of a €21m building completed in 2008.

The Higher Education Authority (HEA) has now asked WIT’s governing body for an immediate report to it on expenses and spending relating to the president’s office and wants an interim report on any issues arising from the external review.

The Department of Education said last night that Education Minister Ruairi Quinn is aware of the steps taken by WIT’s governing body to commission an external review of spending at the college.

The FOI documents reveal that spending by the president’s office included €143,630 on courier and taxi charges and €134,000 on fine art. Other major costs included gifts for visitors and publicity, with WIT’s subscriptions to the institutes of technology umbrella body and employers’ group IBEC accounting for almost €1m.

Prof Byrne told the Irish Examiner that spending by his office included hospitality, much of which brought in donations for the college, and all travel was done appropriately.

“Car hire was used where necessary, I didn’t drive to meetings and claim mileage. I sometimes go to Dublin for an evening meeting but return to Waterford rather than claiming an overnight expense,” he said.

“These figures should be seen in the context of an overall budget for the college of almost €500m in those seven years, they are something around 0.7% of that, and less when you consider capital spending of €150m at WIT in the last 10 years,” Prof Byrne said.

WIT’s governing body will discuss the issue today.

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