Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees
Thursday, 18 October 2018
Public Accounts Committee
HEA Financial Statements 2017
That is an acceptable response. We will have the Accounting Officer before the committee again at some stage and we will address those issues.
If I can just make a final observation to the Chair, this issue has given rise a larger one, namely, the remit of the HEA in the context of conducting reviews. That is actually quite serious for our work. It could call into question previous reviews and whether they have protections. Perhaps some of those were done outside the scope of the HEA. To me, this has very profound implications beyond WIT.
We cannot pre-empt and one has to extrapolate from the advice of the Attorney General, but if it is the case that the report has to be shelved, then we are in very dangerous territory, as to future reviews, who does them and what exactly the role of the HEA in all of that might be? We raised concerns about some of this, about these independent reports that were being done and their nature and powers. The Cathaoirleach may remember that there was a lot of them and we had these concerns. In fact we raised concern about legalities on the Waterford one.
We are where we are with it, in many respects. We are definitely going to have to come back to this once the advice comes back.
The issues at Waterford IT are very real. There is a huge amount of good work being done. I commended Dr. Love, and Mr. Ó Foghlú will know that the cutting edge technology we have in research and development in Waterford is absolutely first class. As we sit here today, however, we have 50 people who engaged with a process who are left without answers to questions that they put. That is the outworking of it. They deserve the answers. Those 50 people who engaged with the process, many of whom still work within the institute, deserve answers.
In a point to Mr. Ó Foghlú, individuals have to account for their own behaviour. Given how I was treated by senior people in WIT, if I was one of those 50 people who came forward, I would be thinking if that is the way they treat a member of the Committee of Public Accounts and a TD in the constituency, it raises very serious questions. I am uncomfortable about that because it is not fair or right. Those people who work in that organisation who engaged with the process deserve a report and answers to questions that they put, be they good, bad or indifferent. I do not know what the outcome of the process will be but the process needs to be brought to a conclusion.