Wednesday, 28 June 2017
Department of Education and Skills
109. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills his expectations and those of the HEA regarding board members and audit committees handling whistleblowers’ cases in institutes of technology and universities. [30313/17]
110. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills if a board of an institute of technology or university was not told about a whistleblower’s case, the sanction for the executive or the persons of the college. [30314/17]
111. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills the sanctions in place for board members and audit committees of institutes of technology and universities that fail in their duty of care to whistleblowers; the date on which the attention of boards and-or the audit committee was drawn to whistleblowers in these colleges. [30315/17]
112. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills if his attention has been drawn to the fact that in some cases board members and audit committee members are also CEOs of ETBs and are responsible for handling their own ETB whistleblowers and are failing to deal with these matters; if this has occurred; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30316/17]
113. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills if there have been cases in which the HEA and-or his Department have taken action to date in 2017 against a whistleblower in such cases; and if his Department and the HEA are willing to intervene and remove members of a board for failure to act and protect a whistleblower. [30317/17]
114. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the HEA and his Department, by failing to have proper measures in place, are causing risk and reputational damage to colleges and persons; and if his attention has been further drawn to the costs associated with same. [30318/17]
116. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills if his Department or the HEA has an oversight role regarding persons who manage whistleblowers in institutes of technology and universities, in view of the fact that they may have also been board members of long standing in ETBs and have failed to manage whistleblowers there; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30320/17]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 109 to 114, inclusive, and 116 together.
The Protected Disclosures Act 2014, which came into effect on 15 July 2014, allows for any employee of a higher education institution (HEI) to make a disclosure to the Chief Executive Officer of the Higher Education Authority (HEA) on any matter relating to the funding, planning and development of higher education and research in the State. The Act provides a framework within which employees of HEIs can raise concerns regarding potential wrongdoing in the workplace that has come to their attention and provides appropriate protections if they are penalised by their employer or suffer any detriment for doing so.
The HEA has a process in place for receiving these disclosures and takes appropriate action on any governance issues identified via this process with regard to an HEI. In the event that the HEA is not satisfied by a response received from a HEI which is the subject of a protected disclosure, it can consider recommending to my Department the appointment of an Inspector (in the case of IoTs) or a Visitor (in the case of Universities).
In addition, to complement the existing power to appoint a Visitor in the University sector, I will be seeking Government approval for a new power for the Minister for Education and Skills to appoint an investigator into a University in certain circumstances.
Issues raised by means of Protected Disclosures are taken very seriously by my Department and the HEA.