A teacher who set up a company to sell computers and other equipment to the college where he had control of technology purchases is to be made its deputy principal.
Richard O’Sullivan was head of the IT department at Coláiste Stiofáin Naofa (CSN), a further education college in Cork City, when the irregularities occurred. They came to public attention in a 2011 Comptroller and Auditor General (C&AG) report about conflicts of interest and deficient tendering for IT equipment at the college.
He was disciplined and repaid almost €5,000 in profits from the operation of the company he and a colleague had set up solely to supply CSN.
Mr O’Sullivan was made head of IT and industrial liaison at CSN in September 2015.
He applied for the job of deputy principal at the college, which is now operated by Cork Education and Training Board (CETB) but was previously under control of the City of Cork Vocational Education Committee (CCVEC).
The deputy principal position is one of several new middle management roles being created in the second-level and further education sectors to ease pressure on principals due to hiring and promotion restrictions since the recession.
It was advertised in February and Mr O’Sullivan has now been appointed to take up the role from September 1. He did not respond to email and telephone messages offering an opportunity to comment on the promotion.
CETB chief executive, Ted Owens, said the appointment was recommended after an open competition, which attracted a large number of applicants.
“All applicants who met the criteria as set out by the Department of Education for the position were interviewed by an independent board,” said Mr Owens.
“The interview board, having considered all applications and inter-viewed all candidates, recommended the tea- cher concerned for appointment.”
In 2012, when he was CCVEC chief executive, Mr Owens told the Oireachtas Public Accounts Committee (PAC) that what happened was inexcusable. He described the issues around IT procurement as “a textbook case of how not to do business”.
The PAC heard that Mr O’Sullivan, who was not named in the hearing, had salary increments withdrawn and that he repaid profits he had made to the VEC. He had declared them to be slightly higher than the €4,500 which the VEC’s internal auditor had estimated.
While the school had believed it was saving money by buying from the company, Mr Owens told TDs he did not accept that.
The 2011 C&AG report on procurement at the college highlighted how proper tendering was not carried out for all equipment bought from the company which Mr O’Sullivan set up with an IT technician.
Both men handled IT purchasing for the college, which paid the firm €25,410 between 2007 and 2009. Mr O’Sullivan took over sole interest in the company in June 2008.
In one purchase of 17 laptops for the college for around €12,500, auditors estimated they could have been bought instead for €10,000.
The quotes provided were deemed deficient by the C&AG — one being a flyer deal for student laptops which did not take account of the numbers being bought.
Two others were printed from websites the day the laptops were delivered, and neither was for the same specification as what was actually being bought.
A second firm owned by the technician, who had a role in CSN’s IT procurement from 2003 to 2008, supplied goods and services worth almost €163,000 to City of Cork VEC from 1997 to 2009.
The technician retired in 2008 but was contracted to the college for another 10 months and paid €28,000.
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