THE DEADLINE for an completion of an independent investigation into allegations regarding expenses at the University of Limerick has been extended for a second time due to the volume of submissions received.
The review, which is being conducted by the independent consultants Mazars, who were appointed by the Higher Education Authority, was due to be completed by the end of November. The deadline was then extended to this Friday, November 18. Now, the HEA has confirmed to the Limerick Leader, it should be finalised by January 29.
A spokesperson for the HEA told this newspaper that they are no longer seeking any further current or former staff of UL to come forward to assist them with their inquiries.
“As a result of new information emerging in the last couple of weeks, and to ensure a fair and robust review of this material, it has been agreed with all parties that a new deadline for submission of the final report of 29th January should be set,” a spokesperson confirmed.
They continued: “We believe that the open invitation to anyone that has information which is relevant to the review to come forward confidentially over the last two months has provided a sufficient opportunity for such parties to input into the review.
“There should therefore be no need for a further period to allow for contributions from additional persons that have not yet come forward,” concluded their statement.
The HEA earlier said that it is “happy with the way the review is progressing but recognise the need for further work in order to fully deliver on the terms of reference.
“While both the interim and final reports will be published, it is not our intention to publish the interim report at this stage due to the sensitivities around the ongoing work of the review, ” said the spokesperson.
The investigation arose following allegations regarding inappropriate payments made to some senior UL staff, which were first published in the Limerick Leader and subsequently in The Sunday Times. UL has since sued the Leader and its editor, Alan English.
Fianna Fail deputy Willie O’Dea, who called for the external review in the Dail, alongside his party colleague Niall Collins, said he is looking forward to receiving the final report.
“In terms of the report, we will be reserving our position. If we’re not happy that the matter has been dealt with thoroughly, it will be pursued further,” Deputy O’Dea told the Limerick Leader.
Concerns had been raised in recent weeks that not enough UL staff and former employees were made aware of the external investigation.
UL failed to issue any communication en masse with its staff about the details of the review, despite queries from the media and calls by local politicians for UL to do so.
Some former staff also sought the personal assurances from UL president Don Barry that they would be at liberty to give their evidence with impunity, which was received. Other staff, who said they were fearful and cautious about coming forward, said they are also sought written assurances from Arthur Cox, UL’s solicitors, that no legal action will be taken against them. A UL staff member, who did not wish to be named, told the Limerick Leader: “A lot of people in UL do not know that this review is taking place.”