Sinn Féin member of the Public Accounts Committee Imelda Munster TD, has issued a scathing rebuke of the testimony from representatives of the Higher Education Authority (HEA), who were before the Committee today.
Upon being asked by Teachta Munster if the HEA had trust in the leadership of the University of Limerick (UL) to act in good-faith, representatives from the HEA responded that they wished to put questions such as Teachta Munster’s to the UL leadership.
Teachta Munster said:
“I believe it would be generous to describe the HEAs faith the UL’s leadership as questionable, as a result of the large number of questions the HEA indicated need to be put to them.
“But I find it astounding that HEA representatives would even come before the Committee today without those answers, given the widely reported exchange between the Committee and UL a fortnight ago.
“The potential defence offered of the University is effectively that the HEA wish to seek clarity if UL buried transparency in some oblique manner in previous reports.
“This would represent an even greater concern to me, as it would point to seemingly bizarre financial behaviour of the University being planned with much greater foresight.
“Students, staff, the broader UL community, and the exchequer deserve much more transparent behaviour from the UL leadership than the HEA seem capable of ensuring.
“Universities and other third level institutes are not the private fiefdoms of Presidents or a broader leadership.
“Indeed, while today we were told that the HEA more broadly envisages ‘smaller, competency-based boards,’ at our hearing with UL just one of the matters raised was the crass manner in which that board has recently expanded.
“We now have a dedicated Minister for Further and Higher Education. If the HEA lack the teeth to tackle rot in the sector, then Ministerial action may be required.
“Ministerial absenteeism cannot be allowed to see this situation degrade further.”