EDUCATION Minister Ruairi Quinn has ordered an inquiry into the affairs of a number of on-campus companies at Waterford Institute of Technology (Waterford IT).
He has used special legal powers to appoint Dermot Quigley, the former chairman of the Revenue Commissioners, to carry out the inspection.
Such an inspection is extremely rare and it is only the third time that it has been employed since the relevant legislation was introduced 14 years ago.
There are six companies providing a range of campus services in Waterford IT and there are a further two related companies. All eight are privately owned.
The companies, which run a student canteen, student residences, a sports hall, retail outlet and recreational facilities, were put under the spotlight in a report by the public spending watchdog, the Comptroller and Auditor General (C&AG), published in June
The C&AG report also raised issues about lavish spending by the office of the former president, Professor Kieran Byrne, over a number of years.
Prof Byrne, who was appointed in 2001, failed to be re-appointed in 2011 soon after the emergence of details of the spending. He has indicated that he is taking legal action.
In relation to the campus companies, the C&AG found that a Development Committee, established in 2001, was given the sole franchise to provide a range of non-academic services on campus. It subsequently incorporated as a limited company, Diverse Campus Services Ltd (DCS).
The C&AG raised a concern that the financial statements of the companies were not included in the consolidated accounts of the institute.
Prof Byrne was a member of the board of DCS and its subsidiaries and was deemed to be chairman of the boards.
The terms of reference of Mr Quigley's inquiry are to investigate a number of matters and their possible impact on the governance, operations, and financial position of the companies.
Waterford IT said it would work closely and co-operate fully with Mr Quigley to ensure a swift resolution.