Garda probe of €5.5k theft from school inconclusive

Almost €5,500 has been stolen at a Cork school from funds being paid for use of its facilities by the local community.

Cork Education and Training Board (ETB) reported the theft to the gardaí when it became apparent last year that the amount of money lodged in the school safe did not tally with expected receipts.

However, nobody has been prosecuted or disciplined as a result of the scam, in which not all the money paid to use facilities outside school hours was handed over for safe keeping to be lodged later in a school or ETB account.

A number of staff members were interviewed by management and gardaí, but their inquiries were unable to determine who was responsible.

It is believed the theft happened over a period of one or two years, and a total of €5,438 was estimated to have been taken.

“All the right things were done, as the principal informed the ETB and the gardaí, and it was also reported to the Comptroller and Auditor General,” said Sheila Quill, Cork ETB’s director of organisation, support, and development.

“The gardaí interviewed quite a number of people who could have had any involvement but the investigation proved inconclusive.”

Cork ETB manages 24 second-level schools and two primary schools, and operates nine colleges and centres of further education in the city and county. It has more than 3,800 staff across administration, teaching, and ancillary grades.

In a note on internal controls in its 2015 accounts, Cork ETB chairman Patrick Gerard Murphy, also a county councillor, said that new controls and procedures have been put in place and will continue to be reviewed at all schools to mitigate against a repeat of the theft elsewhere.

Almost €2m was collected last year by Cork ETB schools and head office from students, parents, and other sources other than the Department of Education and public bodies.

While most big charges like course fees can be paid online for many years, arrangements to make online payments for school trips or hiring school facilities are now also being offered.

“We’re rolling out an online payment system where cash is not paid to schools at all, but parents or community groups or clubs can pay directly online,” said Ms Quill. “It’s a work in progress but it will be available at all schools.”

The Cork ETB accounts also show that internal audits in 2014 and 2015 in the areas of receipts, adult literacy, and community education found adequate systems of internal controls.

The theft from the school was discovered by local school management, rather than during any of the examinations by the unit which conducts internal audits for all ETBs.

As was reported by the Irish Examiner last month, the Laois-Offaly ETB was hit for at least €50,000 by a phishing scam in 2014 but it did not end up out of pocket. Most of the money was recovered from the fraudsters’ bank to which money had been transferred, and the balance of more than €24,000 was covered in a gesture from the board’s insurance company.

The Department of Education’s 2015 accounts showed that two schools were found to have misused €40,000 of public funding.


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