Wednesday, 8 May 2019

Questions (328)

David Cullinane

Question:

328. Deputy David Cullinane asked the Minister for Education and Skills his views on the appropriateness of universities providing housing, catering facilities and staff, transport resources and staff for the personal use of its senior administrators; and the guidance or instruction he has offered the HEA or the universities on such matters of prudence. [19210/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

There is a detailed framework in place, including for example, the requirements of Public Financial Procedures and the Code of Governance of Irish Universities, governing all expenditure by universities.

Specifically, the Code of Governance for Irish Universities states that universities must abide by the Guidelines on Achieving Value for Money in Public Expenditure as set out in the address by the Minister for Finance of 20 October 2005 and communicated to the universities, and provide confirmation of their compliance.

In respect of pay policy, the Code states that university governing authorities are required to implement Government pay policy as expressed from time to time. In addition, further pay policy as expressed from time to time in accordance with Frameworks agreed between the universities and the HEA under Section 25 (5) of the Universities Act 1997 must also be implemented and adhered to. The Agreed Framework between the universities and the HEA for Departures from Approved Levels of Remuneration, Fees, Allowances and Expenses for University Employees lays down the principles to which the parties subscribe regarding the exercise of discretion on the part of a university to depart from levels of remuneration etc. approved by the Minister.

In respect of instances where a campus residence is provided, there is a benefit-in-kind (BIK) to the Head of a university for whom this kind of provision is made. The determination of whether a liability for tax arises on the BIK is a matter for the Revenue Commissioners. The tax arising on the BIK attributable to a Head’s private use of a residence is the responsibility of the Head and must be borne by him/her from within his/her total remuneration. Where a University compensates or makes a payment on behalf of its Head for the BIK incurred, such compensation or payment is viewed as part of overall remuneration for the purposes of public pay policy.

As the Deputy is aware, my Department allocates recurrent funding to the Higher Education Authority (HEA) for direct disbursement to the HEA designated higher education institutions, including the Universities and Institutes of Technology. The HEA allocates this funding to these institutions and the internal disbursement of that funding is then a matter for the individual institution.

Under the current statutory framework both Institutes of Technology and Universities are independent and autonomous bodies and on that basis are responsible for the conduct of their day-to-day affairs, including the allocation of their income both from public and private sources. The performance of this role is - as referred to above - subject to detailed governance, oversight and accountability requirements.