Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees
Thursday, 22 January 2015
Public Accounts Committee
Financial Statements of the Higher Education Authority 2013
General Report No. 85 of the Comptroller and Auditor General: Accountability and Governance on the National College of Art and Design
I welcome the witnesses and thank them for attending. I am conscious that the meeting is winding down and that my question was probably answered when I stepped out of the room to go to the Chamber. I was going to let this matter go because time was running out and people had gone into a lot of detail. However, I cannot let it go.
I have sat on the board of the governing body of an institute of technology. Therefore, I know of the dealings that board had with the HEA. I also know how conscientious the board and staff of that institute are in terms of governance, minding the books and looking after the college. Any third level institute that could state it had a 33% increase would be delighted with itself because that is what colleges want to do. For the NCAD to state insufficient attention was paid to the reform of procedures and compliance is, to my mind, not good enough. It does not tell me why it is in this position. Did somebody just not bother? Did someone think that because the problem was too big and growing we should wait? Why did we have to wait for the Comptroller and Auditor General to bring the matter to attention? It was after this that the HEA came on board. I know from my dealings with it that it was on top of the matter in its dealings with the institute to which I referred and that it was in contact with it on a regular basis. Therefore, why did matters have to reach this stage with the college? The committee acts as a watchdog, but it is not good enough for the college to state procedures are now in place and that everything will be wonderful. We are here to examine why this issue arose and learn specific details. Why did the college get into this mess in the first place? Did someone just not bother doing his or her job? For the most part, members of governing bodies work very hard on a voluntary basis. The management and staff of an institute deal with these matters too; therefore, somebody is responsible. The witnesses cannot say sufficient attention was not paid and that something is now being done. That explanation is not good enough and I want to hear specific details.
I am sorry I am asking questions that have probably been already answered, but I cannot let the matter go.