Tuesday 21 May 2019

Funding cut threat for poorly governed colleges

Comptroller and Auditor General Seamus McCarthy
Comptroller and Auditor General Seamus McCarthy
Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

The higher education planning and policy body has threatened to withhold funding from third-level colleges which don't keep up-to-date financial accounts.

The boss of the Higher Education Authority (HEA) made the comments following an investigation of the National College of Art and Design (NCAD) by the Comptroller & Auditor General.

Comptroller Seamus McCarthy said the NCAD would have been struck off if it was a private company following a 39-month delay in filing certified accounts for 2010/11.

He said the case was among the worst his office had come across "in terms of financial accounting and governance".

In a hearing on the issue at the Dáil Public Accounts Committee, HEA chief executive Tom Boland pledged to get tough on colleges failing to meet governance requirements.

"If an institution was found to be in serious breach of governance requirements and was considered to have made inadequate efforts to correct such breaches, funding could be withheld and, indeed, will be withheld in the future," he said.

However, Fine Gael TD Patrick O'Donovan said this would only serve to penalise students.

"In anyone's estimation, what the HEA has allowed happen here on your watch, as you are the funding agency for the NCAD, is an absolute scandal," said Mr O'Donovan.

The hearing was told the NCAD receives a €10m-a-year grant from the HEA, but the funding body failed to adequately query delays in the filing of accounts.

Mr Boland said the HEA was not an auditing body and had been relying on assurances from the college, which were subsequently found to be inaccurate.

Irish Independent

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