Friday 23 March 2018

Principal had €77,000 in secret accounts, Dail told

Michael Brennan Deputy Political Editor

A SCHOOL principal quit his job after it emerged he had kept €77,000 of school cash in 19 secret banks accounts, the Dail has heard.

The board of management of the primary school in Waterford never knew about the existence of the accounts -- which were separate from the regular school bank account.

They found out that there were two secret bank accounts, then a further four, and eventually a further 13.

The school principal confirmed the existence of all 19 bank accounts after being threatened with disciplinary action by the school. He later returned the €77,000 in school funds in the accounts, went on sick leave and then retired.

The details were revealed in the Dail by Fine Gael Waterford TD Paudie Coffey using his parliamentary privilege. He did not name the principal or the school.

Mr Coffey said he was not suggesting that money had been misappropriated but there were "financial irregularities". He told the Irish Independent he was speaking out because he believed there was a risk of similar incidents in other primary schools around the country.

"We must be able to rest assured that taxpayers' money which is meant to be expended on the education of students is spent in this way," he said.


He said the school's board of management had hired experts at its own expense to carry out a forensic analysis of the 19 secret bank accounts. They later questioned the school principal about "certain transactions" from the accounts.

Mr Coffey said the principal had gone on sick leave when these questions were put to him "and never returned".

"He subsequently retired. Many questions remain unanswered regarding the operation of these private accounts and the management of school finances during this period," he said.

Mr Coffey said the board of management of the school in question had contacted the department seeking help but had been "left to their own devices".

He said the department's inspectors had been told of the "financial irregularities" but only made a passing reference to them in their whole school evaluation report.

In the Dail yesterday, Junior Minister for Education Ciaran Cannon said he was disappointed to hear that the school's board of management had not got the support and guidance from the department. "I undertake to ensure that this will not happen again," he said.

Irish Independent

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