Whistleblowers anxiously await release of University of Limerick report

Anne Sheridan

Reporter:

Anne Sheridan

The report into a series of allegations of misconduct at the University of Limerick is now in the hands of the HEA and Department

The report into a series of allegations of misconduct at the University of Limerick is now in the hands of the HEA and Department

THE LONG-AWAITED report into a series of allegations of misconduct at the University of Limerick is now in the hands of the Higher Education Authority and the Department of Education and Science.

Dr Graham Love, chief executive of the HEA, confirmed that the report was received this week from Dr Richard Thorn, following months of investigations, interviews and analysis.

Dr Love said the extensive report “is now going through the due diligence process and legal process”, before the report is released to the public. An exact date could not be confirmed at this time.

Dr Thorn, former president of Sligo Institute of Technology, told the Limerick Leader that he is happy that he has dealt with the terms of reference, which included matters relating to governance, HR, financial and administrative processes, as well as overall organisational culture.

“I am satisfied that I’ve received full co-operation from all parties  where it was sought, and that I’ve made findings which I believe to be measured,” said Dr Thorn.

Approximately 25 people were interviewed by Dr Thorn, as a result of more than 30 submissions received.

He said the delay in handing over the report, which was expected to be published earlier, was as a result of the due diligence process.

Fianna Fail deputy Willie O’Dea said the release of the report was now overdue, and hopes that released version “won’t be redacted to such an extent that it is unintelligible.”

Several whistleblowers are anxiously awaiting the release of the document, which runs to in excess of 70 pages, and makes a number of findings and recommendations.

Two whistleblowers in UL’s finance department, who remain suspended for some 870 days and counting with full pay, said the cost borne by them remains great.

Both refused to sign confidential severance agreements of nearly €60,000 each, after raising concerns about numerous financial matters, including the processing of expenses for some senior staff, which they found to be questionable.

Both hope that this report will result in their suspensions being lifted and allow them to be reinstated in their positions.

“We also hope that the HEA report vindicates our good name and reputation, which has been unfairly damaged by untrue and hurtful remarks since we first endeavoured to do the right thing by making protected disclosures in respect to financial and HR practices at UL.”

“More than two years on, our lives and careers are still in limbo and it continues to affect us day-to-day. It has caused us and our families much distress during this time and has gravely affected our own personal mental health and well-being.

“We are still seeking answers and want to be able to heal and move on from this period in our lives. We also don’t want what happened to us to happen to anyone else. We hope that this report can help in creating a less hostile work environment and culture for future whistleblowers in all sectors and industries,” said whistleblowers B and C.

Leona O’Callaghan, a former employee in UL’s finance department, who voiced her concerns regarding the payment of expenses to the Public Accounts Committee in 2012, said she still “feels the loss of my job”.