The excessive cost of the independent investigation into plagiarism at Galway Mayo Institute of Technology (GMIT) was raised at the latest sitting of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of Dáil Éireann.
PAC Chairman, John McGuinness queried secretary general of the Department of Education, Seán Ó Foghlú, and Tom Boland, chief executive officer of the Higher Education Authority, why they had not responded to questions raised by Galway East Fianna Fáil TD, Colm Keaveney.
The cost to the taxpayer of the external investigation, which lasted over two years, is close-on €500,000. The figure includes legal fees and pay rates of €187.58 per hour, at a daily rate of no more than €1,500, for the independent investigators.
Deputy Keaveney last year wrote to PAC, urging it to investigate the waste of public money on this investigation.
The letter said there are two issues that Deputy Keaveney believes warrant public oversight by the PAC: the prudential spending of public monies in the context of the inquiry itself; and that academic standards are not being sufficiently adhered to within a third level body in receipt of large amounts of public money.
“I believe that both of these issues are deserving of investigation by the Committee of Public Accounts. The Minister for Education in his response to me in the Dáil seems to indicate that he is of the same mind in this regard,” said Deputy Keaveney in his letter to PAC at the time.
This month, Deputy McGuinness sought an update, from Mr Ó Foghlú and Mr Boland, who faced questioning at the committee on a wide range of education issues relating to third level.
When Mr McGuinness asked the witness to name institutes where there are issues with governance, Mr Boland name-checked Letterkenny, Tralee, and Cork. He added: “There were issues to do with examinations and an inquiry was being conducted in GMIT.”
Later in the hearing, Mr Ó Foghlú was asked to clarify why he had not updated PAC on the questions raised by Deputy Keaveney.
Mr Ó Foghlú said he had updated the committee last May.
“Yes, but that was May 15, 2014 and there were a number of questions to be answered. The representatives might reflect on that after the meeting. Those questions were not answered,” said Deputy McGuinness.
Mr Ó Foghlú agreed he would update the committee again on the situation at GMIT once the HEA receives an update from the college following a meeting of its Governing Body.
The Governing Body met last week.
The Public Accounts Committee is best known for its work on the DIRT inquiry. It is an Oireachtas body set up to ensure there is accountability and transparency in the way Government agencies allocate, spend and manage their finances.
€46,000 Lotto winner comes forward as deadline looms
Galway Bay fm newsroom – The Knocknacarra winner of the Lotto Match 5 + Bonus from the 12th of December has come forward to claim their prize, just two weeks before the claim deadline.
The winning ticket, which is worth €46,234, was sold at Clybaun Stores on the Clybaun Road on the day of the draw, one of two winners of the Lotto Match 5 + Bonus prize of €92,000.
A spokesperson for the National Lottery say we are now making arrangements for the lucky winner to make their claim in the coming days.
Meanwhile, the Lotto jackpot for tomorrow night (27th February) will roll to an estimated €5.5 million.
Voice of ‘Big O’ reflects on four decades
From this week’s Galway City Tribune – The daytime voice of Big O Taxis is celebrating four decades in the role – and she has no plans to hang up her headset any time soon.
Roisin Freeney decided to seek a job after staying at home to mind her three children for over a decade. It was 1981 when she saw an advert in the Connacht Sentinel for a dispatch operator.
The native of Derry recalls that the queue for the job wound its way past Monroe’s Tavern from the taxi office on Dominick Street.
“There was a great shortage of work back then. I nearly had a heart attack when I saw the line of people. My then husband who was giving me a lift in never thought I’d get the job, he was driving on past and I said, let me off.
“I got it because I worked as a telephonist in the telephone exchange in Derry. But I was terrified starting off because I hadn’t been in the work system for so long.”
Back then Big O Taxis had only 25 drivers and just a single line for the public to book a cab.
“We had an old two-way radio, you had to speak to the driver and everybody could listen in. It was easy to leave the button pressed when it shouldn’t be pressed. People heard things they shouldn’t have – that’s for sure,” laughs Roisin.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of Róisín’s story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.
Baby boom puts strain on Galway City secondary schools
From this week’s Galway City Tribune – A baby boom in the late 2000s has left parents of sixth class pupils in Galway City scrambling to find a secondary school place for their children next September – with over 100 children currently facing the prospect of rejection from city schools.
The Department of Education is now rushing to address the issue and confirmed to the Galway City Tribune this week that it was fully aware of increasing pressure and demand on city schools
Local councillor Martina O’Connor said there were 100 more children more than there were secondary school places for next year, and warned that this would put severe pressure on schools to increase their intake numbers.
“This will put a lot of pressure on schools because they will have been working out the number of teachers and what resources they would need in October or November last year and they could be facing a situation where they will be asked to take an additional eight or 10 students.
“There would normally be a small excess – maybe two or three – but this year, it’s over 100. There is a bigger number of children in sixth class this year and there will be the same issue for the next few years,” said the Green Party councillor.
A Department spokesperson said while there were capacity issues, factors other than numbers could be at play, adding that there were approximately 1,245 children in the city due to move onto secondary school in September.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.