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Quinn law will block lavish €7.5m bonuses at universities

THE academics who received millions of euro in lavish bonuses to which they were not entitled are revealed today.

Now Education Minister Ruairi Quinn (left) is bringing in a new law to prevent our universities from paying staff over the odds. This comes after €7.5m in unauthorised allowances were paid to 223 senior academics.

A breakdown of the allowances paid between 2005 and 2011 is published for the first time today in the Irish Independent.

It includes an astonishing top-up of €430,000 to an unidentified academic medical consultant in Trinity College – who was already on a salary of at least €200,000 a year.

The top-ups covered the period from 2005 to 2011.

The former president of NUI Galway, Dr Iggy O Muircheartaigh, received unauthorised payments of €202,978.

The former acting president of the University of Limerick, John O'Connor, received unauthorised payments of €247,905 after continuing to receive an allowance after stepping down from the post.

The Head of the School of Medicine and Medical Science in UCD, Prof Bill Powderly, received an unauthorised annual allowance of €18,000, on top of a salary of €241,000.

Also in UCD, 12 senior staff were paid a total of €266,000 in unauthorised performancerelated bonuses between 2005 and 2008. UCD was responsible for most of the unapproved payments, involving 77 staff and accounting for almost €3.3m of the total.

The payments have now ceased and the Higher Education Authority (HEA) has imposed a financial penalty on the universities. They will now have to divert extra funding towards student services.

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Universities used the allowances as a way of rewarding senior staff for additional responsibilities. However, any such top-ups require ministerial approval -- and they were never properly authorised.

Staff in the posts involved included university presidents, vice-presidents, bursars, heads of schools and functions, professors and academic consultants.

The proposed new legislation will give the minister unprecedented powers to force the colleges to comply with the rules around pay and pensions.

Among its other provisions will be one giving the minister the right to oblige universities to comply with rulings, such as binding Labour Court recommendations.

There is a case at the moment involving Trinity College Dublin, which has refused to accept a Labour Court recommendation to reinstate three staff who were made redundant, despite a request to do so from the Department of Education.

The unauthorised payments were the subject of a report from the Comptroller and Auditor General, which found they had been made over an extended period and to varying degrees in different universities.

The Higher Education Authority (HEA) carried out a review and found that a total of over €7.5m had been paid out between June 3, 2005 and February 28, 2011.

Recruitment

On June 3, 2005, the HEA wrote to the universities to draw attention to the requirement for pay rates to be approved by the minister.

Education sources said the minister and his department were very unhappy over what had developed in the universities and wanted stringent legislation to ensure that they could no longer flout the rules.

The unauthorised allowances were the subject of some discussion at a hearing of the Dail Public Accounts Committee this week, at which UCD president Dr Hugh Brady defended the payment of the allowances.

He said they were the international norm in higher education, a market in which UCD competed for staff recruitment.

In 2009, UCD halted such payments, which were in respect of specific roles involving significant leadership and responsibilities over and above normal academic duties and which were not covered by national salary scales.

Dr Brady added that in many cases, these duties involved specific objectives such as the generation of non-Exchequer revenue. In the case of UCD, this now stood at €184m, 45pc of total revenue.


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