School claimed money for teacher who didn't exist
Gardai investigate after €37,000 in irregular payments uncovered
Published 08/09/2011 | 05:00
GARDAI are investigating how a secondary school improperly claimed thousands of euro to pay for a teacher who never worked there.
The money was among a series of irregular payments claimed by the school from the Department of Education.
Detectives were called in to investigate after a department inquiry uncovered irregularities with payments totalling €37,000.
Concerns were also expressed about a further €17,000 claimed by the school, which is in the west of Ireland.
All of the cash was drawn down using an online payments system and was supposed to be used to pay part-time workers.
However, a confidential department report found how:
•One teacher, who is related to a retired staff member at the school, never worked there.
•Payments were claimed for a sports coach, even though this is not allowed under the online system.
•A claim for thousands of euro paid to cover the cost of an external supervisor was "not legitimate".
•"Dummy" timetables were drawn up to justify some claims.
During the department's inquiry, the principal took full responsibility for the illegitimate claims and said no one else was to blame.
However, he later changed his story, with solicitors acting for him saying he denied any wrongdoing.
All of the payments were made last year and early this year.
Currently, neither the school nor any of the individuals involved can be named for legal reasons.
The department report -- which has been seen by the Irish Independent -- detailed how payments of €6,000 claimed to pay for one teacher were not legitimate.
The report's authors said it was their "considered opinion" that the teacher, who is related to a former staff member, never actually worked at the school.
The document detailed how €15,000 was claimed in respect of a sports coach.
However, the report said payments should not have been made as the coach was not entitled to be paid through the On Line Claims System (OLCS), which is used for payments for part-time staff
Payments to an external supervisor at the school were also probed.
The department's investigators said it was also their "considered opinion" that OLCS claims made in the supervisor's name totalling €16,000 were "not legitimate".
They also recommended that claims for substitution hours totalling almost €17,000 in the name of the same supervisor be investigated further.
According to the document, the principal initially denied that there was anything improper in the way payments had been claimed.
But following further questioning at a meeting in February he admitted all claims made in the name of the teacher's family member "were false and that the individual had never been on the premises as a teacher".
He also agreed that the sports coach had been taking groups of students for training only and also agreed that sports coaching could not be described as teaching PE as required by the department curriculum.
He conceded that some of the part-time teaching claims made in the name of the supervisor were false. He told the officials that documentation in relation to timetables had been altered to justify claims.
"The principal took full responsibility for all irregularities and (said) that no one else was to blame," the report said.
However, within five days of this meeting, a letter was received from a firm of solicitors acting for the principal, stating: "All allegations levelled against our client are untrue and denied in full." The principal also withdrew his cooperation.
Investigations are ongoing.