The chairman of the Dáil Public Accounts Committee, Sean Fleming, has accused bosses at Waterford Institute of Technology of “bluffing” to the committee about its relationship with commercial companies under its control.
Mr Fleming and the committee had been seeking answers from WIT and other third-level institutions about the costs and benefits to the State from commercial entities set up by the colleges. Such answers were not forthcoming.
“The president of Waterford IT came in here about the spin-off company and intellectual property and he said we got great value as taxpayers. But we asked him about the cost to the taxpayer in setting up the company and he didn’t know. He was bluffing at best,” said Mr Fleming.
“This is about the selling of State assets and he wasn’t able to tell us of the costs.”
Mr Fleming also criticised the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, which said it was not possible for the public service to ascertain the cost of setting up such intellectual property entities, as it was not feasible or reasonable to do so.
The department wrote to committee saying: “It would be very difficult to quantify the state money involved given the multiplicity of sources of funding.”
Mr Fleming said such a response was totally unacceptable.
“I, as chairman, am taken aback, this is totally unacceptable for the department to respond in this way,” he said. “The PAC cannot accept this response in any way.”
The PAC also decided to refer documents relating to the case of ‘Grace’, which were reported in yesterday’s Irish Examiner, to the ongoing State commission of inquiry into the abuse suffered by her and others at a Waterford foster home.
Independent TD Catherine Murphy asked about two similar cases to Grace which are now the subject of litigation involving the State.
Mr Fleming said, in his opinion, it was best left to the commission to examine these matters.
At the committee, Ms Murphy also questioned the relationship between the HSE and consultants Deloitte, which furnished a report into the funding of Grace’s caregiver.
“There is a concern about how the report was processed and the relationship between the HSE and Deloitte and whether the report was influenced by the engagement or whether it was genuinely independent. Some of the correspondence does suggest things were toned down, “ said Ms Murphy.
Mr Fleming said nobody accepts it was an independent report, given it was paid for by the HSE.
He said that the committee would send a copy of the transcript to the commission to highlight the concerns.
Independent TD Catherine Connolly reminded the committee that HSE boss Tony O’Brien had insisted to the PAC that the Deloitte report was independent of it, but she said it was not.
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