Sunday 25 March 2018

College accused of vanity splurge during cash crisis

Cork IT commissioned paintings of president and chairman as recession forced budget cuts

Comptroller and Auditor General Seamus McCarthy has updated his 2012 report into the wiping of penalty points
Comptroller and Auditor General Seamus McCarthy has updated his 2012 report into the wiping of penalty points

Daniel McConnell Political Correspondent

Cork Institute of Technology (CIT) is to be questioned about over the spending of a reported €22,000 on portraits of its president and chairman at a time budget cuts were being implemented, the Sunday Independent can reveal.

The college spend of “millions of euro” on external consultants is also being examined.

The commissioning of paintings at the height of the recession in 2009 is one of a number of matters now under examination by the Dail's Public Accounts Committee (PAC) and the Comptroller & Auditor General (C&AG).

The Sunday Independent has learnt that detailed complaint documents were received last week by the C&AG, Seamus McCarthy.

The documents, seen by the Sunday Independent, outline specific allegations of excessive spending by the college.

The college has confirmed that “paintings were commissioned around five or six years ago.

However, they rejected the claim contained in the documents that the artist who was commissioned was “Italian” and that the commission necessitated visits to Italy for sittings.

The college was not in a position to provide a final cost for the paintings this week end.

The documents also claim that the college spent €21m on external consultancy fees between 2008 and 2012.

In response, the college said the actual spend on consultants was “nowhere near this figure”.

However, a spokesman said: “We do pay subcontractors on Research Projects where we are the lead partner and that may account for the figure quoted.”

PAC chairman John McGuinness last night said: “I am aware of the documents’ arrival. I intend raising the issue with the committee.”

Another matter raised in the documents was the alleged “poor treatment” of staff by CIT.

It has been confirmed that CIT is involved in a number of employment dispute cases.

The college confirmed it has “a number of individual cases being dealt with through our internal grievance procedures”.

It stated that the college had “one case we refer to as the Quigley case relating to incremental credit claims by a group of lecturers dating back over 15 years but ongoing due to a legal interpretation”.

Separately, the college is dealing with another case which was referred in recent week to the Labour Relations Commission by the Teachers Union of Ireland (TUI) around online delivery and workload allowances.

Last week, it emerged that a data breach by CIT led to applicants for a course later receiving personal details and the marks of 136 other applicants instead of just their own ranking.

The matter is being investigated by the Data Protection Commission.

Prospective students for the Bachelor of Arts course must include a portfolio of their work as part of the application process, and it is assessed and marked out of 600.

The names and addresses of each of the 137, who had been successful and selected to go to the next stage of the process, were also part of the email that was sent to all of 137 applicants.

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