State-funded body drops legal action over €19,000 bonus
Published 18/03/2010 | 05:00
A GOVERNMENT quango has abandoned attempts to recover a €19,000 bonus paid in error to a former manager at the centre of a fraud investigation.
Neil Ryan, who was the IT manager of the National Education Welfare Board (NEWB), was given the "merit award" in breach of proper procedures, the Irish Independent has learned.
He was later suspended after it emerged almost €200,000 had been paid for unnecessary IT equipment and a further €271,000 for services that had not been provided.
This is being denied by the IT company defending a legal action raised by the NEWB.
The Dail's Public Accounts Committee had recommended that the NEWB pursue the recovery of the €19,000 bonus given to Mr Ryan in error.
Mr Ryan refused to repay the bonus and the NEWB has confirmed it is no longer pursuing the money because any court action would be "fraught with difficulty".
The NEWB said it had asked Mr Ryan to return the money and subsequently sought legal advice after he failed to do so.
It said the legal advice stated that taking court action to recover the bonus would be fraught with difficulty because the prospect of winning was "very low".
They said the cost would be "significant" compared to the €19,000 at stake.
The NEWB said it had decided not to pursue recovery of the bonus payment because of the "more substantial case" it was taking in the courts to recover monies paid out for the supply of IT equipment.
But in a letter to the Department of Education, it said that it would keep the matter under ongoing review.
The Dail committee previously heard Mr Ryan falsely claimed he had a PhD qualification in his job interview.
The consultants who were appointed to examine his CV failed to check this aspect of his qualifications before he was given his job with the NEWB in 2003.
The NEWB had been set up a year earlier to tackle the issue of school truancy.
Its statutory role is to ensure that every child either attends a school or receives an education in some other manner.
A report published by the Comptroller and Auditor General found the losses incurred by the NEWB were due to weak internal controls exploited by a member of staff, apparently in collaboration with a supplier.
The NEWB is currently taking a High Court case against Mr Ryan, who resigned in 2006, and the Kildare-based company IT Upgrade Ltd to recover monies paid for the supply of IT equipment and services.
The company is planning to vigorously defend the action and also intends to bring an application to dismiss the proceedings against the state company.