The Higher Education Authority (HEA) has spent over €75,000 so far examining how the University of Limerick (UL) handled three whistleblowers who spoke out against irregular financial practices and consequent industrial relations problems.
HEA officials told the Dáil Public Accounts Committee (PAC) that the report it commissioned to deal with the claims cost €69,000.
The report, carried out by consultants Mazars, established that irregular claims were identified and challenged at the time by whistleblowers in the finance department.
A further €7,000 plus VAT was spend on an unsuccessful attempt by external facilitator, Jane Williams, to resolve staff issues resulting from the whistleblowing.
The chief executive of the HEA, Graham Love, told the PAC that two of the three UL employees that remained suspended were in receipt of full pay, pending the outcome of a process with the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC). He said the protected disclosures about the irregular expenses were made to the authority after the two staff were suspended.
After many failed attempts to resolve the issues between the parties, Love said the HEA had exhausted its powers. He said: “We have raised the matter with the Department of Education.”
When Independent Galway TD Catherine Connolly questioned Mr Love over whether she correctly understood that the whistleblowers claims were substantiated, Mr Love replied that aspects of the allegations have been upheld. “As you absolutely said, inappropriate claims were initially made but then they were appropriately challenged,” he said.
UL representatives attended the PAC on March 30 to discuss their 2014/15 accounts.