Wednesday 29 January 2020

Investigation into school as €11,000 in fundraised cash unaccounted for

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Stock photo

Sarah Mac Donald

The Department of Education is investigating a school in Co Offaly over allegations of financial irregularities.

It is understood that concerns raised about the rural school relate to large sums of money fundraised, in some cases by students attending the school, which remain unaccounted for.

It has been claimed there was a lack of receipts for money totalling over €11,000 over a three-year period and an accounts book and notes of a member of staff who documented the monies raised had disappeared.

The sums cover amounts including €4,285.

In one incident some of the cash was used to pay a member of staff as they awaited payment through the department's Online Claims System. The money was to be reimbursed to the school, but a source has claimed this didn't happen.

Other concerns have been raised about a tendering process in which the son of a staff member secured the work but did not carry it out in the manner they were commissioned to do it.

The Irish Independent understands that an audit of the school's finances is being conducted by the Financial Support Services Unit (FSSU), which was set up by the department and advises schools on how to record cash receipts, petty cash and payments made to school personnel.

A spokesperson for the department confirmed to the Irish Independent that "a number of issues" have been raised with it in relation to the school and that it "is currently investigating these matters".

Although the investigation began last autumn, sources said there were growing concerns about the delay in completing the audit.

Separately, an internal investigation is also ongoing - led by the school's board of management.

One source told the Irish Independent that the school's patron, the bishop of that diocese, needed to state if he was happy with the impartiality of this internal investigation.

The Irish Independent contacted the bishop's office and his spokesperson on education but failed to get a response.

The chairman of the school's board of management is the local parish priest and he also failed to respond to a request for a comment.

However, one member of the board of management, who acts as the bishop's representative, said she had "no idea" if the bishop knew about the department's investigation.

She said concerns over the alleged financial irregularities had never come up at board meetings she attended nor had the investigation. "I want nothing whatsoever to do with what is happening. I don't know and I don't want to know," she said.

Irish Independent

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