Tuesday, 24 November 2020

Questions (651)

John McGuinness


651. Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science the role of his Department relative to the oversight of the HEA and the institutes of technology; if he has a specific role to ensure that good governance is maintained in the sector to the highest standard and that public funds are safeguarded and dispensed prudently in the interest of achieving value for money for the State; if each of the newly-established technological universities will be responsible for the unresolved issues of each of the institutes in their respective makeups such as protected disclosures and legal issues and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38032/20]

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Written answers (Question to Further and Higher Education)

The Higher Education Authority (HEA) is an aegis body of the Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science established under statute by the Higher Education Authority Act, 1971 and provision relating to its governance are set out in the Act. The Act also sets out the functions of the HEA including its function as the statutory funding authority for the universities, institutes of technology and a number of other designated institutions and provides for the financial monitoring of the designated higher education institutions by the HEA.

As provided for in the Code of Practice for the Governance of State Bodies 2016, the Department has an Oversight Agreement and a Performance Delivery Agreement in place with the HEA. The Performance Delivery Agreement sets out the purpose and scope of the agreement and defines the roles for both organisations. A Financial Accountability Framework in place between the Department and the HEA is also appended to the Performance Delivery Agreement, setting out the structures in place with regard to the funding advanced to the HEA for its own operations and for disbursement to the HEIs under its remit. The Oversight Agreement is a written statement between the Department and the HEA which defines the terms of the HEA’s relationship with the Department. It outlines the legal framework and environment within which the HEA operates, its purpose and responsibilities, the requirement for compliance with the Code of Practice for the Governance of State Bodies and arrangements for monitoring and reporting. Work is currently underway to develop the Oversight Agreement and PDA between the Department and the HEA for 2021.

Under the current statutory framework, Institutes of Technology are independent and autonomous bodies and on that basis are responsible for the conduct of their own day-to-day affairs, including the allocation of their income both from public and private sources. The performance of this role is subject to detailed governance, oversight and accountability requirements, including for example, the requirements of the Public Financial Procedures and the Code of Governance for Institutes of Technology, which includes requirements in respect of all expenditure by Institutes.

In addition, all higher education institutions are required to submit Annual Accounts, which are subject to audit by the Comptroller & Auditor General, and an Annual Governance Statement to the HEA that includes confirmation of adherence to Codes of Conduct for Governing Body members and Employees, compliance with appropriate pay policies and other governance and accountability issues.

With regard to newly-established Technological Universities (TU), Section 37 of the Technological Universities Act 2018 (No. 3 of 2018) provides that on the appointed day of establishment of a TU, all functions that immediately before the appointed day were vested by, or under any enactment, in the applicant institutes which were dissolved on foot of the TU establishment, shall stand transferred to the technological university. Therefore any unresolved matters pertaining to an Institute prior to designation as a TU will rest with the new TU entity to address.