Tuesday 26 September 2017

Audit of spending at college not ready for months

Eimear Ni Bhraonain

AN audit into high spending at an institute of technology president's office will not be ready for "months".

Waterford IT authorities urgently commissioned Deloitte to carry out the review in May after details emerged about the €3.5m spending of the president's office from 2004-2011.

However, more than three months later, WIT has admitted the audit will not be completed for "a number of months".

WIT said it had "no comment" to make on the details of the audit and refused to say if it would be made public.

The college has yet to fill the €156,000-per-year post after the WIT board refused to extend the 10-year term of Professor Kieran Byrne in the wake of the spending controversy.

However, it is expected to be advertised in the coming weeks. The college secretary and financial controller Tony McFeeley is the interim president until the position is filled.

A detailed breakdown of spending previously showed how taxis were used by Mr Byrne for 200-mile (322km) round trips from Waterford to Dublin and almost €500,000 was spent on publicity, including payments to PR firms and professional photographers, in a seven-year period.

Travel

They also showed that almost €250,000 was claimed in travel expenses for governing body members.

Yesterday, the Irish Independent called to Mr Byrne's home on the outskirts of Waterford city. His wife, a local school teacher, answered the door before explaining that her husband would not be commenting further.

It is not yet clear if Mr Byrne will take legal action against WIT after he decided to turn down their offer of a "step back" post in management.

However, sources close to WIT last night expressed support for Mr Byrne, stating that he had transformed the college from one building to a "campus" during his term as president.

"I think he firmly believed he wasn't doing anything wrong. He was flamboyant and maybe lavish at times but that is part of his ambitious nature. He thought he was running a university when it was an IT -- he was thinking big and had big plans," said one source.

"He was very into the cap and gowns and the photographs in the paper."

Another source who worked with Mr Byrne said he had "serious ambition".

"WIT was at the back of a car park when he arrived and look at it now. You can't argue with the progress of the college."

Irish Independent

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