Ed­u­ca­tion board urged to has­ten in­quiry

Board chief’s de­ci­sion to re­tire prompts calls for Gov­ern­ment to fast-track is­sue

The Irish Times - - Home News - CARL O’BRIEN Ed­u­ca­tion Ed­i­tor

The Depart­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion has been urged to fast-track its in­ves­ti­ga­tion into spend­ing at an ed­u­ca­tion board, fol­low­ing a de­ci­sion by the board’s chief ex­ec­u­tive to re­tire at the end of this year.

An au­dit by the Comptroller and Au­di­tor Gen­eral (C&AG) into ac­counts for Kil­dare and Wick­low Ed­u­ca­tion and Train­ing Board (KWETB) has flagged is­sues re­lat­ing to po­ten­tial con­flicts of in­ter­est and other con­cerns.

The depart­ment an­nounced on Oc­to­ber 4th that it had ap­pointed an in­ves­ti­ga­tor, for­mer pres­i­dent of the In­sti­tute of Tech­nol­ogy, Sligo, Richard Thorn. The in­ves­ti­ga­tion is due to be com­pleted early next year.

KWETB’s chief ex­ec­u­tive, Sean Ashe, sur­prised col­leagues last Fri­day when he in­formed them he will re­tire at the end of this year.

Pri­vate ses­sion

Dur­ing a pri­vate ses­sion of KWETB’s board meet­ing this week, mem­bers de­cided to send a let­ter to the Depart­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion urg­ing it to fast-track the in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

Wick­low-based So­cial Democrats coun­cil­lor Jen­nifer Whit­more said she wanted the depart­ment’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion ac­cel­er­ated. “We want to see due process, but this is clearly a time-sen­si­tive ex­er­cise.”

Board mem­bers were also in­formed dur­ing the pri­vate ses­sion that Mr Ashe was not in at­ten­dance as he was trav­el­ling to Abu Dhabi for 10 days for a con­fer­ence, de­spite a re­quest from the board’s chair that he re­main at home.

Mr Ashe, who was un­avail­able for com­ment yes­ter­day , is at­tend­ing the WorldSkills con­fer­ence. He was nom­i­nated to at­tend by the KWETB’s par­ent body, Ed­u­ca­tion and Train­ing Boards Ire­land.

Mr Ashe is un­der­stood to have told the board’s chair that the event had been or­gan­ised a year ago. He is un­der­stood to have said that he has co-op­er­ated fully with the au­dit so far.

Fol­low­ing the meet­ing, Fine Gael coun­cil­lor Fiona McLough­lin-Healy said she was con­cerned that cor­re­spon­dence re­lat­ing to Mr Ashe’s where­abouts was not dis­cussed dur­ing the public sec­tion of the board meet­ing.

“No one knew where the CEO was and no one in­formed those present at the public meet­ing why the CEO was not there.”

The board’s le­gal ad­viser ear­lier in­formed board mem­bers that they had voted for the dis­cus­sion re­lat­ing to the C&AG’s au­dit to be held in pri­vate, which meant any dis­cus­sion re­lat­ing to the in­ves­ti­ga­tion should also be held in pri­vate.

The C&AG au­dit has flagged is­sues re­lat­ing to the de­liv­ery of build­ing projects, rental prop­er­ties and the use of ve­hi­cles.

In a state­ment re­leased this week, KWETB said it had co-op­er­ated fully with the C&AG and the depart­ment over re­cent months re­gard­ing the au­dit. It has said it will not com­ment fur­ther un­til the in­ves­ti­ga­tion is com­pleted.

The board, which has a turnover of ¤116 mil­lion, is re­spon­si­ble for run­ning fur­ther ed­u­ca­tion and train­ing cour­ses in both Co Kil­dare and Co Wick­low, as well as a num­ber of pri­mary and se­condary schools.

Sean Ashe: is at a con­fer­ence in Abu Dhabi de­spite a re­quest that he re­main at home

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