Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology (GMIT), Institute of Technology Tralee, and Waterford Institute of Technology (WIT) are currently in debt of amounts up to €9.5 million. This information was released to the Dáil Public Accounts Committee (PAC) by the Higher Education Authority (HEA) yesterday.
It also noted that some of Ireland’s fourteen state funded ITs find themselves with excess funds. The HEA have attributed this to being “prudent in their spending”. The authority disclosed that Institute of Technology Blanchardstown, Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT), and Institute of Technology Sligo have amassed funds ranging between €10 and €13.5 million.
The HEA also noted that in late 2016, GMIT, IT Tralee, and WIT were €3.29 million, €1.8 million and €4.4 million overdrawn respectively. They also insisted that three year financial plans are immediately introduced to tackle the situation.
The HEA noted that this comes at a time of heightened concern over the need to protect funding levels for ITs, colleges and universities across the country. They also hit out at “Robert Mugabe”-esque spending, over a “going away party” at Cork Institute of Technology (CIT).
The HEA also stated that they have “been working closely monitoring the financial position of all institutes…to eliminate the deficit. The HEA has a policy framework for engaging with institutes in financial deficit which requires institutes to submit a three year plan to return to a balanced budget situation”.
Seamus McCarthy, comptroller and auditor general told the PAC that the issues can be addressed and that the financial problems relate to a “friction deficit over several years”. He also pointed out that the Department of Education had been made “fully aware” of the risks involved.
Social Democrat TD Catherine Murphy called for the tackling of the underlying issue, raising the prospect of cuts in other areas. She noted that “purely in the case of deficits, if you have a deficit then you have to fund it from somewhere”.
A number of TDs in this meeting, including Labour’s Alan Kelly, Fianna Fáil’s Marc Mac Sharry and PAC chair and Fianna Fáil TD Sean Fleming expressed concerns over how ITs deal with whistleblowers, especially at CIT. This follows hearing of how a previous retirement party for its president involved purchasing an expensive ice sculpture of a dolphin.