Monday 23 September 2019

College president 'failed to comply' with rules when he spent €50,000 on hospitality

THE office of the former president of Waterford Institute of Technology Professor Kieran Byrne "failed to comply" with college rules when it spent €50,009 on 228 lunches and other hospitality events.

The revelation is among the findings of a new report by consultants Deloitte into spending by Prof Byrne's office between January 2009 and May 2011 on hospitality, travel, taxis, books, periodicals, procurement and other expenses.

Deloitte say key issues identified were:

• Evidence of widespread failure to follow the institute's travel policy.

• Significant items of expenditure incurred without any formal tendering process.

• Unable to confirm whether certain spending represented proper institute expenditure because of lack of supporting information.

• Whether spending on furniture, fine art and other miscellaneous items represented value for money.

Prof Byrne declined to comment to the Irish Independent about the outcome of the review. "I have endured enough in relation to this; I really don't want to make any comment," he said.

Among the main findings of the report, which has been seen by the Irish Independent, was that the Waterford IT hospitality policy was not complied with in relation to 228 hospitality events, with a total value of €50,009, during the period.

Guests

There was either a failure to produce a full explanation for the purpose of the event; a failure to explain why it could not be carried out in-house; a failure to identify all the guests; or it exceeded the maximum allowable rates with no explanation.

The report also states that four of the largest suppliers of services to the Office of the President were not subjected to proper tendering procedures during the period.

Significant items of expenditure incurred without a proper tendering process were €50,476 to a public relations firm, €29,988 to an academic consultant, €29,080 for taxi services and €16,829 to a marketing firm.

The consultants found evidence of "widespread failure to follow the institute's travel policy" and because of this, travel expenses to the value of €74,200 could not be confirmed as value for money.

There is some evidence of personal benefit in relation to travel, the report concludes. It states that during the initial Deloitte review, Prof Byrne acknowledged that he did not seek formal pre-approval for travel, as is required by policy.

He claimed to have obtained informal approval from the chairman on some occasions, but this was denied by both the former and current chairman.

On a number of occasions Prof Byrne flew at higher class than economy with no evidence to demonstrate that no lower rate was available, or that he reimbursed the difference as required under policy, the report states.

Among the other matters covered are the purchase of eight pieces of fine art, valued at €7,250 – and the whereabouts of two pieces are unknown.

According to Deloitte, Prof Byrne failed to address many of the detailed questions put to him in the course of the review.

The report was sought by the Waterford IT Audit Committee on foot of an earlier review by Deloitte, covering spending by Prof Byrne's office between January 2004 to May 2011. The college is following up on issues raised.

Prof Byrne failed to be re-appointed as president of WIT in 2011 after details of spending by his office during his tenure emerged. He has initiated legal proceedings against the college.

Irish Independent

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