An investigation into the Kildare and Wicklow Education and Training Board has raised serious issues with some of its tender processes.
In one instance, the investigator was unable to determine whether an acceptable procurement process for remedial works to a premises took place and has now referred the matter to the Garda Economic Crime Bureau.
Another procurement process was described as suboptimal, while other activities did not meet Department guidelines.
Education Minister Richard Bruton says the findings are of serious concern but notes that an action plan is being implemented which will deal with the issues raised.
The Department's statement, in full, is:
"In October 2017, the Minister for Education and Skills,Richard Bruton T.D., commissioned the first investigation to be carried out under Section 40 of the Education and Training Boards Act 2013. The Investigation was carried out by Dr. Richard Thorn and his final report was submitted to the Minister in July 2018.
The Minister has today published the report of the investigation, which is entitled “Investigation into Certain Matters in Kildare and Wicklow Education and Training Board”.
The Minister is also making public his proposed direction to KWETB under Section 41 of the Act.
The report makes 23 findings and 15 recommendations to be implemented by the ETB. The report also indicates that the Investigator referred a matter relating to a particular tendering process to the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau. The Department of Education and Skills subsequently referred the report in full to the Bureau.
The Minister said:
“I very much welcome the report of Dr. Thorn in relation to Kildare and Wicklow ETB and I would like to thank him for this important work.
“The report makes a number of findings in relation to matters which I consider to be of serious concern. I strongly believe that effective governance and accountability in the public sector is crucial to provide confidence in relation to the use of valuable public resources. To achieve this there must be confidence that there are appropriate governance arrangements in place, and robust scrutiny that these are operating effectively. It is essential that KWETB makes all necessary efforts to address all of the issues raised.
“I am aware that the ETB is adopting a proactive approach to improving governance arrangements and addressing matters of concern. I understand that work is well underway on implementation of an action plan which was developed in response to a draft of the report. I propose to direct the ETB that the action plan be reviewed and agreed with my Department in the light of the final report. And, once finalised, I expect that it will be implemented by KWETB swiftly.
“My Department will continue to work with the ETB until such time as it is satisfied that clear systems are in place and working well in KWETB to ensure compliance with rules relating to procurement, conflicts of interest and property management.
“In relation to the investigation process itself, I wish to acknowledge and welcome the cooperation of the KWETB Board and staff with the investigation. This has been a difficult time for all involved. I am aware that the ETB is keen to move on now with its work to address all of the issues as well as ensuring that its core business, the provision of quality education and training services for learners in Kildare and Wicklow, continues to be provided at a high standard and further developed.
“Improving governance arrangements and implementation across the education sector, including in the ETB sector, is a priority for my Department and a number of initiatives are underway in this area.
“My Department has committed to having a draft Code of Practice for the Governance of ETBs for consultation with the sector by the end of this month and for agreement by the end of this year. My Department will work with ETBs to roll-out and implement the revised Code, once finalised. The findings of this report have informed the Department’s work in this regard.”
Significant improvements have already been made by ETBs in relation to timeliness of financial reporting and work is well underway on shared services systems for the sector, which will provide standardised and more modern facilities for the operation of payroll and financial transactions and reporting. In addition, it is planned to extend the Department’s programme of rolling reviews on specific elements of governance to the ETB sector.
As an immediate step, all other ETBs will be asked to examine the report of the investigation and to verify their practices in relation to governance and oversight of procurement and conflicts of interest and confirm whether any similar issues arise in respect of their organisations."
Report of the Investigation can be accessed here
Minister’s proposed Direction to KWETB can be accessed here
The Terms of Reference for the Investigation can be accessed here