Investigator appointed in UL pay-off scandal

The Higher Education Authority will appoint an external investigator to look into claims of financial mismanagement at the University of Limerick.

The announcement follows a meeting between Tom Boland, the HEA’s chief executive, and Leona O’ Callaghan, a former staff member at the finance department at UL who left her role after making claims of irregular expenses in 2012.

O’ Callaghan welcomed the news – “it’s great, because I don’t want them to take my word for anything. I want them to take my information and check what I am saying. All I want is accountability.”

Some of the details of the allegations are that some staff members claimed expenses on travel between their home and the university and that on one occasion, a staff member claimed for the delivery of a fitted kitchen to their new home.

“All I wanted was a sense of fairness. For the ‘joe soap’ and students it’s extremely strict for expenses. It was all to do with who the person was claiming, not what was claimed for, and that is where I struggled”, O’Callaghan continued.

“If you were on the VIP list, you played by different rules.”

It was revealed a few weeks ago that two employees claimed they were offered nearly €60,000 to resign from their jobs at the University of Limerick, after they raised concerns about inappropriate money spending and mismanagement.

The employees raised these concerns in October 2013 and described the two years that followed as “torture”. They said that the final straw was on a night in December 2014, when they claim they were physically threatened by a UL colleague.

The university said it appointed Deloitte, the university’s internal auditors, to look into the two employees’ claims and launched an independent investigation but that no information had been received to corroborate their account.

UL strongly denied the allegations and vowed to fully co-operate with the HEA inquiry.

Stephen Murphy