Limerick Institute of Technology paid €627,000 to a number of staff members over a four year period when it had no work for them, it emerged today.
An incredulous Public Accounts Committee heard that LIT – which has run at a deficit in the last two years – took on the staff members following its amalgamation with the Tipperary Rural Business Development Institute, and is paying them a combined €216,000 a year even though they were once deemed ‘supernumerary’.
Comptroller and Auditor General Seamus McCarthy yesterday told the committee that deficits have been incurred in each of the last two years at LIT, and that its governing body considers it still appropriate to prepare its financial statements on a going concern.
“There are still a number of staff members that are supernumerary in the college and the cumulative salary cost for those staff to date has been €627,000, of which €216,000 was incurred in the year ended 31 August 2014,” he said.
“They [LIT] have an approved level of staffing, and these are above that level of staffing, but in this case they actually have no work,” Mr McCarthy said.
“They’re obviously doing something, but they have no formal assignment in the institute,” he said.
LIT has since issued a statement in which it said that the staff in question have since been deployed into specific roles within the institute. A spokesperson said that the C&AG comments came from a reading of last year’s accounts, and that the staff have been redeployed as of the start of the current academic year.
Mr McCarthy told the committee that he was not certain how many staff members are involved but said he thinks it is “three or possibly four”.
“So they’re getting €70,000 a year for doing nothing?” Independent TD for Dublin South Shane Ross asked.
The committee heard that the amalgamation took place on September 1 2011, and that the €627,000 had been paid to these staff members since then.
“So they’ve had no job since 2011 at €72,000 a year and no one has done anything about it?” Patrick O’Donovan, Fine Gael TD for Limerick asked, “That’s absolutely crackers, isn’t it? I mean, it’s just bananas,” Mr Ross said.
Joe Costello, Dublin Central Labour TD asked if the staff members involved should not have been given a redundancy package.
“I think it’s relatively unusual,” Mr McCarthy said.
“It does happen where organisations are amalgamated that people become surplus to requirements and generally then what happens is they would be transferred to other organisations that can use their skills,” he said, adding that he cannot reveal the age or details of the people involved.
“If these guys are 22 or 23 they could be doing nothing for 40 years on €70,000 a year,” Mr Ross said.
LIT is the fourth largest Institute of Technology in Ireland, and has over 6,000 students and 500 staff.
“Arising from the integration of Tipperary Institute into LIT, a five year integration process for redeployment of staff was immediately undertaken and is completed as of the start of the current academic year, 12 months ahead of schedule,” the statement read.
“This process also required upskilling and retraining and all staff transferred are making a valuable contribution to the wider LIT offering as we continue to grow our student numbers at our campuses in Limerick, Thurles and Clonmel.”
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