The authority responsible for the governance of higher- level education has defended a decision not to carry out its own investigation into allegations of misspending made against Cork Institute of Technology.
The Oireachtas’ public spending watchdog had received lengthy documents in which a whistleblower made a number of allegations.
The correspondence with the Dáil Public Accounts Committee prompted CIT to spend almost €65,000 on legal fees and on hiring auditors KPMG, who investigated the claims.
The auditors’ report found CIT broke its own procurement policy in 2007 when it spent €20,000 on portraits of its president and former governing body chairman. The institute also spent €2,214 framing the portraits.
Auditors also sampled 23 expense claims submitted by CIT staff and within these noted “several issues which are in contravention on the travel and expenses policy of CIT”.
CIT’s annual report for the 2012/2013 academic year shows the institute spent more than €2m on travel, subsistence, hospitality, and seminars.
Despite the breaches found and the 176 allegations made by the whistleblower, the Higher Education Authority — which has a statutory responsibility for the governance and regulation of higher-education institutions — has not investigated.
A spokesperson for the HEA said the authority was happy with CIT’s “comprehensive and thorough examination of the allegations”.
“We received the correspondence and requested a report from CIT on the matter,” the spokesperson said of the whistleblower’s documents.
“We are happy with the process by which CIT requested KPMG to carry out an independent audit and we have received the KPMG report. We are satisfied with the findings of that report and that CIT is responding appropriately to all of the findings,” he said.
“The audit committee of CIT’s governing body engaged KPMG to carry out an independent review of the allegations received. CIT provided the HEA with copies of the KMPG reports. The HEA has reviewed the reports and have followed up with CIT on matters of clarification.
“Based on our examination of both reports and additional supporting information provided to us, we are satisfied that CIT implemented a process which thoroughly investigated the allegations contained in the whistleblower’s correspondence.”
The HEA confirmed it has written to CIT on the need for the institute to improve on areas highlighted in the report.
“In the course of the reviews, a number of areas for improvement were highlighted and the HEA wrote to the president of the institute in May of this year,” the HEA spokesperson said.
“The president responded to the HEA in May addressing the issues raised in our letter and indicating areas where changes in policies will be made to reflect the recommendations contained in the reports. There are no outstanding issues with CIT at this time,” he said.
The issue is expected to come before the Public Accounts Committee this autumn.
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