Probe into 'minor act of plagiarism' at college costs taxpayers €436,000
An investigation into a "minor act of plagiarism" at Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology (GMIT) cost the taxpayer more than €436,000, with two investigators being paid €1,500 a day, the Irish Independent can reveal.
The high spend on the investigation is to be discussed by the Dáil's spending watchdog, the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), when it meets today.
PAC member and Galway East Fine Gael TD Paul Connaughton said there are serious questions that remain unanswered and added that the taxpayer deserves to know how exactly the €1,500 rate came to be paid.
"The figures are truly shocking. We have these documents now but serious questions remain as to how the taxpayer came to pay more than €436,000 for this investigation," he told the Irish Independent.
The documents show that barrister and mediator Ed Madden was paid €217,890 as one of the two investigators while academic Bairbre Redmond was paid a total of €63,278 as the other.
The documents also show that Hayes Solicitors received €85,991 while Arthur Cox received €39,673. A total of €26,677 was paid for stenography services while €2,551 went on room hire.
The shocking spend is revealed in correspondence to the committee from the Higher Education Authority (HEA), which had been informed of the matter by the college.
The college commenced an external investigation after an incident of suspected plagiarism involving a master's degree student in the School of Business.
It was detected by a lecturer in the 2009/2010 academic year.
According to GMIT, the incident was determined to be "one of minor plagiarism" and the matter was referred to an internal Plagiarism Committee for adjudication.
The student was found guilty and a penalty was imposed on the submitted work by the student.
In November 2010, reports in relation to the incident appeared in the media, "implying that the matter had been improperly handled and that the institute was engaging in a cover-up and that a lecturer had assisted the student in the act of plagiarism," the documents state.
The college said that as the process was independent of the institute, "it was not appropriate for the institute to influence the conduct of the investigation or to terminate the investigation."
As the investigation progressed, a number of issues emerged which substantially lengthened its duration and complexity, and directly contributed to the significant increase in the anticipated costs.
A spokesman for the HEA said that as it had only received the GMIT response, it would be inappropriate to comment on the matter.
The Irish Independent submitted email queries and attempted to contact GMIT by phone several times yesterday, but they went unanswered.