Full transparency and strong oversight needed on third level
Vice Chair of the Public Accounts Committee, Alan Kelly TD of the Labour Party, has welcomed the publication of the PAC report today on the third level education sector. It shows the need for full transparency on the sources of funding Universities and Institutes of Technology have, and how they spend their resources. Deputy Kelly has also said that the Government must move to ensure the HEA Board has the right mix of skills and the powers recommended in the report, to hold higher education bodies to account.
Deputy Kelly said:
“The litany of failures outlined in the PAC report shows the need for much greater transparency in the higher education system. A lack of up to date accounts is unacceptable. Ensuring the C&AG receives the accounts for certification with six months of the end of the financial year is a key recommendation that must be delivered on.
“The reports outlines a failure of corporate governance, and the balance of oversight between the HEA, Department of Education and Skills, and Universities and ITs now needs to be strengthened and re-calibrated. In particular, the Board of the HEA must be strengthened, and the Government should ensure that the right skill mix is in place, and that the HEA has adequate resources and powers to fulfil it’s role, and implement the recommendations.
“Further, the HEA must have a role in the oversight of intellectual property, how it is managed and reported on.
“It is also incredible that millions of euro in income was kept secret and off the books. We now need full disclosure of the transactions and end of year balances in foundations and trusts where consolidation isn’t possible.
“The recommendations around procurement, severance payments and the purchase of property show the failure of corporate governance, transparency and oversight. When a person retires from a public body with a full severance it is not acceptable for a revolving door arrangement to be in place where they are contracted back in or brought back through some other arrangement. I welcome the recommendation that the HEA should have strong oversight of any exceptions to this recommendation.
“This Report is a step in the right direction, however the work of the PAC regarding third level colleges will continue in our next term. By way of example, we will be asking CIT and the HEA to return to the PAC early next term to discuss the process by which CIT investigated the allegations made in 2014, and also the decision making of the HEA to proceed with the merger of CIT and Tralee IT into a Technological University and the costs associated with it.”