Waterford Institute of Technology paid out almost €400,000 — more than a third of which went on travel — without going through proper procurement, new accounts show. In 2017, three areas of expenditure totalling €397,708 were identified by WIT that did not comply with public procurement guidelines, according to the institute’s most recently filed financial statement.
Among this was €144,408 spent on travel, which included the cost of hotels and flights. However, actual fees paid to the travel providers concerned were below the tender threshold, the accounts note.
Financial statements filed in 2016 and 2017 show a combined operating deficit at WIT of more than €6.3m. This deficit is mainly due to a historical write-off of the State Recurrent Debtor, as well to funding shortfalls, the 2017 accounts state.
“The continued reduction in income, including but not limited to, exchequer funding and its distinct negative effect on the ability to deliver institute key objectives, remains a key strategic and organisational risk.
“Factors contributing to the institute’s financial position include decreases in State grant funding, particularly associated with the funding of recurrent activities,” the report states.
The institute is engaged in ongoing discussions with the Higher Education Authority and with the Department of Education and Skills with a view to ensuring that the institute can sustain educational and related activities for the foreseeable future.
A going concern basis was approved by the WIT governing body in preparation for the financial statements, as the college had sufficient cash reserves to meet its projected expenditures, the report adds.
In 2017, WIT also recorded an increase of €2.36m in its cash balances that year. A further €187,800 the institute spent on advertising was also found to not comply with public procurement guidelines.
An additional €65,500 linked to postage and the purchase of a franking machine in 2009 was also found not to follow procurement guidelines. A tender for the advertising services and a procurement process around postage and franking has since been put in place, the accounts note.
In 2017, the WIT president Professor Willie Donnelly received remuneration of €147,506, an increase from €146,034 in 2016. That same year, WIT had 627 staff working in teaching and research, and a further 417 staff members working across technical, central administration, and ancillary services.
In a statement to the Irish Examiner, WIT said it has experienced four years of above-average student growth and retention and its deficit will reduce in accordance with its financial plan.