Irish Universities – Comptroller and Auditor General’s report

The report itself is available from the Auditor-General’s site here – be warned, it is a 1½ Mb pdf download, make sure you have a fast connection. More digestible perhaps are the official press release and report summary.

The report covers many matters besides overpayments to a few senior individuals, and several of them will probably have more impact once the initial shouting is over. There are detailed comments on organisation and teaching methods, as well as a number of recommendations for toughening-up quality review processes. All of these will undoubtedly have effects in the coming months, as universities desperately try to demonstrate their financial responsibility to a sceptical government. Also worth reading are the reports on individual universities – I was particularly amused by the statement that the academic restructuring for my own institution is now “completed”, and I’m sure that others too will be interested in the way their institution is presented.

As to pay, I’m sure all Irish university members will have great fun reading the report’s detail – names are not named, but the post held and the relevant dates are given, so insiders will know who is being discussed. Those tempted to think that this only impacts on those more senior to them should reflect that the concerns of the report are wider – for example, there are a number of criticisms of pension arrangements generally, and of the point on the scale at which new entrants start, for jobs at all levels. And in a more general sense, the report contributes to a general public feeling that university staff are overpaid, which will ultimately harm both those who are and those who are not.

On a personal note, I would add that while I have long had an interest in both university law and the law of restitution of unlawful payments, I had until yesterday assumed that there was no significant overlap between the two areas of law. You live and learn …

The Blogmeister

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One Response to “Irish Universities – Comptroller and Auditor General’s report”

  1. It is always good to have the views of the blogmeister on this site. More!
    I have offered a few thoughts on the report in a comment to Richard Tol’s post on http://www.irisheconomy.ie:
    I do not intend to offer a view on the substantive issues discussed in the Comptroller and Auditor General’s report. However it is worth noting that while the report was produced under the value for money jurisdiction under s.9 of the Comptroller and Auditor General (Amendment) Act 1993 (assessment of economy and efficiency of expenditure), the matters within the report which have garnered attention relate to the more traditional audit functions and in particular assessing whether expenditures were authorised. Indeed, in those parts of the report which are ostensibly concerned with value for money, and notably the organisation of teaching, the report concludes that:
    ‘There would be merit in evaluating the various initiatives in the area of teaching and learning in order to determine their potential contribution to improving learning outcomes, achieving cost-effective delivery and extending access and retention.’
    Whose job is it to assess whether public services are delivered in cost-effective fashion? The Comptroller and Auditor General.
    So, whilst some of the right questions are asked for a value for money audit, the report appears remarkably thin on evaluations. At the end of report the reader is none the wiser as to whether expenditure on universities is money well spent.

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