The University of Limerick (UL) has made a settlement of €186,000 with the Revenue Commissioners after issues were raised about how the university paid staff on sabbatical leave.
Concerns over the payment of staff on sabbatical leave emerged during questioning of UL’s financial accounts for 2014/15. The revelations form part of a wider controversy surrounding the university over irregular financial practises and consequent industrial relations problems. Concerns over the university’s irregular financial practises were first raised by three whistleblowers within the university in 2012.
At a hearing in Leinster House on Thursday, President of UL, Professor Don Barry, argued that staff were not “going off sunning themselves in the Bahamas”, and that the payment of expenses to staff while on sabbatical, specifically expenses amounting to €15,000 paid to a staff member and his wife in Sydney, were used to strengthen relations with universities overseas.
However, the president admitted that their sabbatical policy was wrong, and stated that they have since revised it.
UL Director of Finance, Michael Field, told the Public Accounts Committee that the university’s policy for staff on sabbatical leave had been to reduce the salary of the staff, and pay for their daily expenses. However, President Barry stated they had since changed their sabbatical policy “to bring it into line with the taxation laws of this country”.
The university engaged with the Revenue Commissioners voluntarily, and the settlement, which will cover 2008-2012, included interest of €22,000.