Over €400,000 may have to be written off by the Limerick and Clare Education Training Board (ETB) as a result of weaknesses in the control of capital projects by the former County of Limerick VEC.
The Irish Examiner has learnt that Limerick and Clare ETB has been engaged in talks with the Department of Education lasting more than two years as to who should pay for €418,792 spent on a number of schools projects in Limerick dating back more than 10 years.
The department has thus far given no signal that it is willing to reimburse Limerick and Clare ETB the monies which the County of Limerick VEC failed to draw down over a period of a number of years.
Limerick and Clare ETB is facing the financial hit as it assumed all the assets and liabilities of the VEC following the latter’s dissolution in June 2013.
In the VEC’s annual statement for 2012, which was only published in December 2014, the chairman of Limerick and Clare ETB, Cathal Crowe, said that a number of weaknesses had been identified in relation to control over capital projects during an audit of its 2011 financial statements.
They arose during a formal review of the effectiveness of the VEC’s system of internal financial controls which took place in 2012. The VEC said it was not in a position to verify that capital projects were on budget.
It also failed to maintain a record of the agreed budget for individual projects and a record of agreed contract prices.
As a result of the review, the VEC made a claim on the Department of Education in October 2013 for €418,792 relating to expenditure on capital projects in 2005/6 that had not previously been claimed from the department.
They relate to three main projects: An extension of Coláiste Mhuire in Askeaton, the development of Castletroy College, and the building of a new school, Coláiste Chiaráin in Croom.
Mr Crowe said that no response had been received from the department confirming its agreement to fund these amounts by December 2014.
Documents obtained by the Irish Examiner show the chief executive of Limerick and Clare ETB, Seán Burke, stated in a letter to the department in October 2013 that there had been “unfortunately a discrepancy in the drawdown of capital monies from the department”.
He said it was important to highlight that Co Limerick VEC did not carry out any project without the prior approval of the department.
Mr Burke added: “What needs to be addressed is a failure to draw down the monies approved on various projects.”
Limerick and Clare ETB has subsequently established a new section for the sole purpose of dealing with the board’s procurement requirements and the control and monitoring of all capital projects.
A spokeswoman for Education Minister Jan O’Sullivan said the department was still involved in ongoing discussions with Limerick and Clare ETB. “The investigation will continue for some time due to the historical nature of the information involved,” she added.
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