€1.2 million of illegal pay to be reinvested towards student services


Over €1.2 million of funds which was paid as unauthorised bonuses to staff will be reinvested towards various student services.

The University Observer understands that these repayments would go towards services such as the health centre and will occur over a five-year period. All services affected will receive €240,000 per annum if the proposed scheme goes ahead.

A source within the university said that for the duration of a five-year period, certain student services would be ring-fenced and protected from any further cuts that may occur during this period.

There would also be a joint committee considering of UCD and UCD Students Union (SU) members that will report to the Higher Education Authority (HEA) on a regular basis.

It is understood that the move was made in conjunction with the SU who led the negotiations.

An audit is currently underway to accurately gauge how much money is owed to HEA, which is estimated to be in the region of €1.4 million. The allowances in question were paid out over a ten-year period without the approval of the HEA despite legislation that stipulates approval must be sought.

According to the HEA, the two parties are eager to resolve the dispute before a board meeting set to take place at the end of February.

This will be carried out without UCD accepting the blame for any wrongdoing in paying out €1.2 million in unlawful allowances to members of staff without the explicit consent of the HEA. Furthermore, €266,000 was paid out in bonuses between twelve people between 2005 and 2008.

The academics that received the payments will not be asked to refund the payments. Instead, it will be the university that will be forced to make the repayments. The HEA said that they had written to universities in 2001 after it had indicated that such allowances were not to be paid without proper authorisation.

The university has defended the repayments saying that they were used to incentivise staff that was considered to be performing well and that they were in line with international norms.

After being accused last year by Labour Party TD Róisín Shortall of taking a “softly-softly approach”, the HEA had to impose a sanction on UCD. However, UCD President Dr Hugh Brady stated that trying to impose a financial sanction would be “illegal, inappropriate and discriminatory”.

At time of print, the SU was unable to comment about the proposals but refused to rule out the possibility of them occurring.