Provost salary breaches approved limit, audit finds

Prendergast is paid €201,000 a year, however benefit-in-kind relating to his use of the provost’s lodge on campus exceeded the approved rate.

Provost Patrick Prendergast, who is the head of Trinity, has been overpaid since 2011, according to an external audit.

His salary is said to represent a “breach” of what was approved by the Department of Education.

In the Irish Examiner today, it stated that Prendergast is paid €201,000 a year, but an external audit report concludes that benefit-in-kind relating to his use of the provost’s lodge on campus exceeded the approved rate.  

The audit document seen by the Irish Examiner states: “It has been confirmed that the college does not have approval for the payment of benefits-in-kind. Consequently, the total remuneration exceeds the 2011 approval implication.”

“The college is in breach of the approval provided by the Department of Education and Skills in relation to the Provost’s salary,” it added.

The audit report  is said to be “damning” in concluding the salary paid to the provost is currently in breach of rules. 

The report explains how College sought a “derogation” – an exemption from or relaxation of the rules – from the Department of Education and Skills to account for Prendergast living on campus. However, this was not approved.

The problem has caused considerable concern of senior college management, who are concerned as to why it has taken nine years to emerge.

The financial findings of the provost were among a number of matters found by the auditors, which “may expose the organisation to significant financial and reputational risks”.

For the 2019 audit, it has been confirmed that Trinity does not have approval for the payment of benefits-in-kind.

Speaking to the Irish Examiner, College management stated the monetary amount involved is “immaterial” and the provost pays tax on the benefits-in-kind.

In a statement, College said: “This is a technical issue relating to benefit-in-kind. The provost is required to live on campus as part of his contract and it has been agreed that utility bills relating to this are treated as a benefit-in-kind.”

 

“Like many other employees, the provost pays tax on this benefit-in-kind making the total remuneration appear to be higher. The provost is, however, paid the standard salary,” College added.

In 2011, then-Minister for Public Expenditure Brendan Howlin determined that new university employees, alongside other new recruits to public service, would have their annual wages capped at €200,000.

This was later increased to €337,000 for senior academics in 2018 after concerns that the cap on academics’ wages was a barrier to attracting international experts to Irish universities.

In 2019, 250 Trinity staff members earned upwards of €100,000, according to the College’s financial statements.

College’s top earner received between €360,000 and €370,000 in 2019, while five others received between €300,000 and €340,000. A further five staff members earned between €280,000 and €290,000.

Correction: A previous version of this article stated that 250 Trinity staff members earn more than €250,000 a year. In fact, 250 staff earn more than €100,000. Trinity News apologises for the error.

Shannon Connolly

Shannon Connolly is the News Editor of Trinity News, and a Junior Fresh English and Philosophy student.