Sunday 26 January 2020

University charity paid €30,398 for 102 taxi fares

Beneficiary: NUI Galway has had €200m raised by the foundation
Beneficiary: NUI Galway has had €200m raised by the foundation
Katherine Donnelly

Katherine Donnelly

A charity set up to raise funds for NUI Galway spent €30,398 on 102 taxi trips - an average €298 per journey - over three years, according to a report into its travel and hospitality expenses.

The Galway University Foundation also paid for business class airline travel and for stays in four- and five-star hotels in cities such as New York, London and Singapore.

Former president of NUI Galway Dr Jim Browne, who was a director of the foundation at the time, was the sole passenger for 77 trips and in the company of others for another 12. Most trips were from Galway to Dublin and back.

The foundation spent €48,584 on business class return flights from 2015-2017, predominantly to New York where its annual gala is held. There was a further €24,145 spent on economy travel.

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The flight expenditure included €10,884 for spouses of foundation directors, with €7,965 incurred for Dr Browne's wife.

The findings follow an investigation on behalf of the Charities Regulator on foot of concerns it received in June 2017.

The inspector's report deals with the use of charitable funds on taxi services, business class flights, four- and five-star accommodation and spousal travel, as well as a number of other matters.

While the difference between using taxis and claiming mileage, overnight and subsistence allowances for the same trips was a "marginal" €4,192, the inspector said the use of charitable monies for long distance travel by taxi was "generally inconsistent with value-for-money considerations".

Inspector Tom Murray also found the use of charitable monies on business class flights and for four/five star hotels was "inconsistent with best practice and value-for-money considerations".

The foundation is a registered charity set up to raise philanthropy funds for the development of NUI Galway and has raised more than €200m.

Mr Murray noted that in many respects the foundation "appears to be a well-run organisation", but "there were improvements that could be made such as in documentation and justification surrounding the use of private taxi services and an increased awareness/distinctions between charitable and university business".

In a statement, the foundation said it had fully addressed the areas for improvement raised by the inspector and would provide the regulator with an update on the matters raised in the report.

It added that average administrative expenditure as a percentage of total income was 15pc and well below both national and international comparisons.

Irish Independent

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