The Dail’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has expressed “serious concern” regarding the running and operation of Student Universal Support Ireland (SUSI) in its first year.
The news follows a report published by the public spending watchdog, the Comptroller and Auditor General, Séamus McCarthy, which found that some students received grants which they were not entitled to totalling €4 million.
It’s believed as many as 850 students were paid maintenance grants in 2012/2013, amounting to €1.9 million while a further €2.16 million was overpaid to postgraduate students, non-Irish students and students who had already graduated from third level education.
The sum, which is still yet to be repaid, could possibly be written off by the national student grant body as a once-off occurrence.
Chairman of PAC, John McGuinness, said he wanted the PAC to examine how and where €7.16 million of staff and administration costs were spent in 2012 alone.
It is not possible to say whether the new system is making the hoped-for savings in administration costs, because there is no way of comparing the cost of the old system with SUSI.
SUSI started a phased take-over of the students grant system which was traditionally operated by 66 local agencies, such as county or city councils.
Mr McCarthy also notes that the level of staffing allocated to SUSI and the level of outsourced services are significantly higher than envisaged and “while there have been reductions in the overall number of staff employed in VECs and local authorities, the extent to which this is attributable to SUSI is not known.”
PAC will discuss the report at a hearing on June 11 to which senior officials at the Department of Education and other relevant agencies will be invited. SUSI, which is administered by the City of Dublin Education and Training Board (CDETB), is taking over work previously done by 66 local authorities and VECs.
The SUSI grant application system will open this Thursday 23rd April for students hoping to receive grants for the upcoming academic year 2015/2016.
For more information on whether you’re eligible to receive a grant visit www.susi.ie.