Education Centres are independent statutory bodies under Section 37 of the Education Act (1998) and are managed by voluntary management committees elected annually.
My Department is the main funder of Education Centres through direct budget allocations for administrative staff pay and operating costs. The Education Centres also receive significant funding from the support services which are funded entirely by my Department for the purpose of designing and delivering continuing professional development courses and other professional support for teachers throughout the country.
In 2015, the Centre referred to by the Deputy reported an alleged financial irregularity to my Department. The matter was immediately referred to the Gardaí by Centre management. I can confirm that the Gardaí have conducted an investigation and the matter is currently before the courts.
As the process is ongoing I do not have any further comment to make at this time in relation to the specific matter.
With regard to Education Centres generally, my Department is progressing a programme of governance modernisation to complement and update the previous requirements that Education Centres are required to observe, and in line with a desire to continually improve the governance and accountability structure in the sector. This programme is being informed by the Mazars Review of the Department’s Governance, Funding and Accountability arrangements for Education Support Centres. In addition, with developments in governance requirements for state funded bodies as outlined in the Code of Practice for State Bodies which are been implemented in the sector.
A Steering Group has been established to lead on the development of a programme of actions for the modernisation of governance and accountability arrangements for Education Centres and to oversee its implementation. The work of this group is supported by an Implementation Group and a number of Working Groups.