Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Science, Technology, Research & Development James Lawless says the Government must consider proposals to increase the level of oversight into financial governance at Irish universities.

Deputy Lawless made the comments following revelations that the University of Limerick misled the Department of Education and the Comptroller and Auditor General during an inquiry into payments made as part of unauthorised and excessive severance packages to senior managers.

Deputy Lawless said, “This situation shows us that we need to re-examine the financial governance and management structures at Irish universities. There is clearly a lack of effective oversight of the use of public monies at some universities. It’s worth nothing that this situation would never have come to light without the brave persistence of whistleblowers.

“The Higher Education Authority (HEA) and Department of Education are currently unable to properly conduct financial governance involving the use of tax payer resources at Irish universities. The composition of the current legislation means that the HEA and Department can only examine financial oversight in Institutes of Technology. I believe there is a case to be made for strengthening the HEA and Department to allow them examine the financial governance practices of universities in cases of suspected misconduct.

“Any changes will have to be finely balanced between achieving effective oversight of financial governance involving public monies, while ensuring the preservation of universities’ traditional autonomy to conduct their own affairs. A system could be put in place whereby the HEA and Department have the power to examine governance practices when concerns are raised within universities themselves. Robust mechanisms have been put in place to assist whistleblowers in State institutions but little change has been implemented regarding the governance of universities,” concluded Deputy Lawless.