PAC Meeting | June 11, 2015
Department of Education called and examined
Deputy John Deasy: While Mr. Ó Foghlú is here, I want to ask him about the report on Cork Institute of Technology and Waterford Institute of Technology and the issues surrounding potential amalgamation.
I spoke to Mr. Kelly, as have others, and my understanding is that the report was to have been finalised in late April. There were issues about two governing bodies being changed and the change in the position of president of WIT. Can Mr. Ó Foghlú tell me where we are at with the report? When will it be published?
Mr. Seán Ó Foghlú [Secretary General, DoE]: My understanding is that Mr. Kelly is finalising the report, but still has to conclude another set of meetings the week after next with one of the institutions. In discussions with us, he judged it was best to take his time to complete the report given the turnover of the chairperson and president at WIT.
He will come to us with the report, we hope, within a couple of weeks. The publication of the report is obviously a matter for the Minister to consider and decide. We hope it will be in the public domain in the near future.
Deputy John Deasy: I asked Mr. Kelly if he would come to the committee and answer questions when his report is finally published. Can Mr. Ó Foghlú come to the committee with him if or when he attends?
Seán Ó Foghlú: I am back here again in four weeks and am happy to answer questions on that day. I have already had discussions with the secretariat about answering on that day. Mr. Kelly is not available in July and August as he will be on leave, but I am certainly happy to answer questions. Of course, if Deputy Deasy wishes, I understand Mr. Kelly has indicated a willingness to talk to him.
Deputy John Deasy: As such, we are not looking at any time before the end of August.
Seán Ó Foghlú: I would not have thought so with Mr. Kelly. However, I am back here in four weeks and I understand institutes of technology issues will be among those covered. We will be happy to discuss any issues then.
Deputy John Deasy: Does Mr. Ó Foghlú expect this to be finalised and dealt with by then? In fairness, we are hanging around here dealing with this for a long time. I accept Mr. Kelly's point.
I spoke to him about the issues surrounding the changes in the governing bodies and presidential offices. That makes sense as it makes sense to delay and prolong the report. This has gone on for a very long time, however. Can we get this dealt with within that four-week period?
Seán Ó Foghlú: I hope so. I have discussed it with the Minister and it is her intention to try to do that. Whether she manages will depend on the fact she must see what is in the report and come to an opinion. She may want to consult her colleagues in government in advance of publication. That is her call, not mine.
PAC Meeting | May 14, 2015
Chairman: [John McGuinness TD]: . . . a number of reports were given to us by a whistleblower relating to Cork Insitute of Technology. I know this is a different matter but it is still part of the third level sector.
Then there were reports on Waterford Institute of Technology, there were problems in regard to the amalgamation of Carlow and Waterford ITs and Tralee and Cork ITs. Within what was said at those meetings, there were serious issues which have not been addressed in an adequate way.
We should not just remind the Department of Education and Skills but, if necessary, bring forward the date of our hearing with it if we do not get the appropriate replies. Extremely serious allegations were made but it seems to me that the Department has not taken them seriously.
In the context of the amalgamation of institutes at both Carlow and Waterford and Tralee and Cork, significant moneys are involved and the Department has not clarified the matter yet the amalgamations continue apace.
Again, it is a question of having the information before us, being able to make a decision and not allowing a process to continue that will further cloud the financial circumstances of the colleges involved so that we will never get to the end of the matter.
We should express our concern directly to the Department about these matters that have been raised. If we do not receive a comprehensive reply to the queries raised by members and whistleblowers, then we should have an earlier than planned meeting with the Department, the Higher Education Authority and representatives from the different colleges concerned.
Deputies could deal with the issues raised in the correspondence supplied by the Department at that meeting. The allegations are far too serious for this committee to ignore.
Deputy John Deasy: We should wait until Mr. Michael Kelly finishes his report. It might be more useful to have him in when we meet the HEA and the Department. I have spoken to him and he has agreed to meet the Committee of Public Accounts once he has finalised his report.
My understanding is that he is taking a look at some of the issues you raised as well. He has had to wait until the two governing bodies in Waterford and Carlow met and until they have been put together before he issues his report.
There has been a delay because of that and I believe that is reasonable. However, if we are asking in the Higher Education Authority with the Department of Education and Skills then I believe it would be useful to bring him in and discuss his report and findings as well, because he is examining the issues you have raised.
Chairman [John McGuinness]: I have no difficulty with that, Deputy Deasy, save to say that what Deputy Costello has raised and what I have raised are almost separate from the particular issue of Waterford and Carlow ITs.
Deputy John Deasy: Yes, that's grand.
Chairman: It is a broader issue of governance and reporting between the colleges and the Department, and, in turn, reporting between the Department, the HEA and the Committee of Public Accounts. It is obvious that we are not getting the information. It is clear to me that there is almost an attempt not to give us full information, and that is not acceptable.
Deputy John Deasy: That is fair enough. He is probably the one person who has been tasked with independently reviewing the governance matters that you are talking about. Therefore, if we are going to have a meeting on the matter it might be useful to have him before the committee to talk about his findings when it comes to the governance and the stream of information between the Department, the Committee of Public Accounts and the HEA.