University of Limerick whistleblowers demand 'case clarity'

 'We have been more than fair and patient,' says Leona O'Callaghan, ex- UL staff

Anne Sheridan

Reporter:

Anne Sheridan

University of Limerick whistleblowers demand 'case clarity'

The female University of Limerick employees were suspended on June 12, 2015

THE two whistleblowers who remain suspended from the University of Limerick’s finance department a year on have said they are still in “no man’s land”.

The female employees were suspended on June 12 – Sunday last – in 2015, with pay, and are still seeking to be reinstated in their roles.

“A year on we are still in no man’s land,” they told the Limerick Leader.

“We are still suffering from a lot of stress, hurt and anxiety, and have been left mentally and physically exhausted from this process. In addition, we have concerns about any reputational damage caused to us,” they said.

Their claims regarding expenses and other financial matters – first aired in the Limerick Leader last September – gave rise to the Higher Education Authority commissioning a report into processes and procedures, which found a number of shortcomings.

Since the report by Mazars, all parties were given a deadline to respond to the report. 

Persons B and C – the two suspended employees – have responded, along with Leona O’Callaghan, another former employee of the same department, who also brought similar concerns to the Public Accounts Committee in 2012.

A UL spokesperson said that the “university has already responded comprehensively and in considerable detail to the HEA with regard to the Mazars report” – before the March 16 deadline - and “is currently in active discussions with the HEA”.

All responses were due to have been made publicly available online by the HEA well before this date.

However, none have been published to date and recent queries from this newspaper addressed to the HEA have gone unanswered.

“It is now also three months since we responded in full to the HEA. We are struggling to understand why there has been no visible action by the HEA.

“ We have been informed that they are in talks with UL, but we do not know the nature of their discussions, which is causing us further stress.”

Ms O’Callaghan is also eagerly awaiting the publication of UL’s response.

 “We have been more than fair, more than co-operative and more than patient with the review process, yet we feel very little has been done,” she said.

The employees have further concerns about their issues being adequately addressed as Tom Boland, chief executive of the HEA, is due to step down this month.

Mr Boland has been made fully aware of their grievances with the university on an ongoing basis. Until a replacement is found the acting chair of the HEA will be Dr Stephen Kinsella, a senior lecturer in the department of economics at the University of Limerick.

In addition to the claims by the aforementioned women, at least a dozen other allegations are understood to relate to staff who are still employed, former staff members and at least one former student, which were not addressed by Mazars due to the scope of its remit.