DESPITE a change of leadership at the Kildare and Wicklow Education and Training Board (KWETB) and a clean bill of health from the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) last week, the Newbridge councillor who blew the whistle on the goings-on there two years ago believes as many as 50 complaints may yet be outstanding.
“The narrative that governance is no longer a concern in the KWETB since the new administration took over, is not accurate,” said Cllr Fiona McLoughlin Healy on Friday last 5 August.
She said most serious of her concerns include the payment of €83,000 of legal fees on behalf of three senior executives at the KWETB, and then the withholding of this legal advice, without board approval.
“When asked for approval for €83,000 in December 2017, the Board clearly stated that as the advice had been engaged without its approval, and as the Terms of Engagement letter and the legal files were not available to it, that the Board could not approve the payment,” explained Cllr McLoughlin Healy.
“The Board asked for the letter and the files to be handed over before considering payment, and suggested that the executive refer the bill to the Taxing Master for review.
“Although neither the legal files or the letter were provided, an order to pay the bill was issued by the interim Chief Executive before the next Board meeting was held in January 2018,” she pointed out.
“Also, the Board requested the official [and mandatory] Terms of Engagement letter that must be provided by solicitors when offering a service – detailing for example who the clients are, what the advice relates to and the fees for the service – this has never been produced for the Board,” she said.
Last week’s PAC report references the governance lapses that occurred in the KWETB before the former Chief Executive (Sean Ashe) retired and the new Chief Executive (Deirdre Keyes) took up her position.
It refers to the Garda investigation underway into procurement lapses that happened before the new CE took up her position and acknowledges that new governance procedures are in place.
However, Cllr McLoughlin Healy, who failed in June to get re-appointed to the Board, but nonetheless continues on her crusade of clarity, still believes there are a lot of unanswered questions with an authority that controls a budget of €135m of public money, and administers 22 schools across the two counties.
“I’ve had no follow up in relation to 50 complaints concerning poor governance in its procurement system [investigated by the Garda Economic Investigations Unit], but also the KWETB appointments system and the complaints process itself, amongst others. Some complainants report mental distress and suffering both at work and at home,” said the councillor.
Both the PAC and the KWETB were approached for comment, but they were unable to reply (on a Bank Holiday weekend) before going to print.
The Kildare Nationalist will return to this in greater detail next week.