Trinity College Dublin trying to recover €1m lost to email fraud

Trinity College Dublin is still trying to recover almost €1m lost to a computer fraud at its fundraising wing last year.

Trinity College Dublin

The university was left on the hook for amounts obtained by scammers from Trinity Foundation donors. It is believed they had received a fraudulent email, purporting to be from the foundation, directing them to send donations to alternative bank accounts. While the amount involved was not confirmed when the scam emerged last year, some details are set out in TCD’s financial statement for the year to September 30, 2017.

In a governance and financial control statement, TCD provost Patrick Prendergast and chief financial officer Ian Matthews said the total cost was €974,781.

The loss is to be funded out of TCD’s commercial revenues. The cost includes legal fees and an external computer forensic team hired to help establish what happened.

“The university is continuing its efforts to recover the funds through legal action and liaison with its insurers and with police and state authorities in Ireland, the UK and Germany,” it said. Control of the foundation’s payment processes was transferred immediately after discovery of the fraud to Trinity’s financial services division.

The foundation is continuing its review of internal controls and processes with new policies to be implemented in financial year 2017/18. The financial services division retains control of the payment processes pending the introduction of a longer-term solution.

An accompanying report from the comptroller and auditor general Seamus McCarthy reveals almost the same amount was spent in 2016/17 which was not compliant with guidelines on public procurement. The value of the goods and services for which 18 suppliers were paid was €981,000.

TCD’s financial control statement says more than 99% of its spending in the year to the end of last September was fully compliant with procurement law. Whenever applicable, it said, it used the services and frameworks of the Office of Government Procurement and the Education Procurement Service, and it continues to work towards full compliance with guidelines.

The university spent €345m in the year, €17.9m more than the year to September 2016, but income also rose to €355.8m. While most of the €20m rise came from higher research and academic fee income, TCD also received its first State grants rise in several years.

However, the €500,000 rise only brings the amount back on par with the €44.5m it got in 2014/15 and leaves it €10m short of State grant income in 2012/13. After other accounting factors are considered, the university reported a deficit of €4.9m, less than half of the €9.4m in the year to September 2016.

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