Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees
Thursday, 24 September 2015
Public Accounts Committee
Higher Education Authority: Financial Statements 2014
Mr. Tom Boland:
Yes. Maybe I will put it in context and I will come to that as well. I can let the committee have a copy of an outline of the changes the HEA has made to its governance arrangements since it was last here. I guess these changes were prompted to some considerable extent by some of the criticism from this committee and some of the lessons we learned from the Comptroller and Auditor General's reports. We have issued a revised template for the governance statements to the institutions. The governance statement is the key reporting instrument from institutions to the Higher Education Authority. We have added some additional items to that template. We have asked each institution for more explicit confirmation that it is compliant with procurement guidelines. We want a specific assurance on that. We have asked those institutions that are not compliant to set out the actions they have taken in this regard. We want to know how many governing body meetings are taking place. We want to know the level of attendance at those meetings. We want to know the outcomes of the reviews of effectiveness of governing bodies. We also want upfront information on any significant unexpected expenditure that each institution is incurring. This is relevant in the context of the presence of representatives of GMIT this morning.
We have also reminded governing bodies, and the chairs of governing bodies in particular, of their central role in the whole governance and accountability system and the need for them to interrogate the information that is given to them by the management team in the institution, and the responsibility of the management team to give full information to the governing body and the chair.
We have enhanced our arrangements with the Comptroller and Auditor General. We will now meet on a quarterly basis and that is very valuable because we can share lessons that are being learned from the sector. We can also get a sense of what is happening in respect of audits and the submission of financial statements. We will also share information then to identify any early difficulties that are happening in the sector. This arose in the context of the NCAD, the National College of Art and Design, where we simply were not informed - we did not know some of the issues that were happening there.