Several Irish universities have resisted declaring tens of millions of euro in private trusts and foundations in their accounts, according to the Irish Times.
An audit of Irish university accounts has also revealed that many universities have failed to comply with procedural rules, while a range of governance issues within Irish universities has also been found. For example, large, additional payments have been paid to staff members in at least two universities.
A number of Irish universities have their own foundations, which assist in education and research by engaging in fundraising activities with private donors. Over the past few years, all Irish colleges have agreed to either consolidate their private accounts or make funds from private trusts and foundations explicit in their overall financial statements.
Trinity College has included its foundation, Trinity Foundation, in its accounts for a number of years, however, a number of Irish universities, such as National University of Ireland, Galway (NUIG) have resisted declaring these sums in their accounts, despite the fact that these funds ultimately benefit the university. Universities have argued that they do not control their foundation nor trust organisations.
In a statement, the Higher Education Authority (HEA) said it was “working with institutions to ensure that this is the case moving forward”.
Hundreds of thousands of euro were also found to have been paid to staff at least two universities, which are Maynooth University and the University of Limerick (UL). These payments far exceed the normal salary payments of university staff. While issues have been raised in UL about how the university paid staff who were on sabbatical leave, and the university paid a settlement of €186,000 this April, Maynooth University has not previously been the subject of allegations of this kind.
According to the Irish Times, a lack of compliance with national procurement rules and the guidelines of additional payments have been also been discovered across most Irish universities, notably surrounding procurement rules of computers and services worth millions of euro. In a statement, however, HEA chief executive Dr Graham Love said he was satisfied with progress being made with regards to non-compliance, and plans to ensure that any remaining issues of this nature are addressed in the future.
According to the Irish Times, new records show that, prior to the arrival of Dr. Love, there was frustration with the HEA over the difficulty in resolving matters of non-compliance sooner, with the then-interim Chief Executive Anne Looney noting an “absence of a comprehensive range of measures” that could be used resolve matters of non-compliance. She highlighted that intervention could only take place with the consent of the university.
These revelations occur amidst a purported lack of funds in third level institutes, calls for additional funds to cope with rising numbers of students attending university and a reduction in state funding of universities.