KWETB board appoint committee to review engagement of legal advisors and payment of €82k legal fees

A committee has been appointed by the Board of the KWETB to review the hiring of legal firm, Philip Lee as advisors in response to the Comptroller and Auditor General’s Audit and subsequent investigation by the Department of Education and Skills and the payment of the €82,000 fees.

“ I wish to thank the Board members who supported my proposal that a committee be appointed to review both the engagement and payment of legal advisors for compliance with the Code of Practice for Education and Training Board’s. We owe it to tax-payers who have funded the payment of the €82,000 bill to get answers to questions around how the advisors were hired, what the terms of engagement were and where the legal files are. I am hopeful that this committee which is to report to the Chair of the KWETB in a month will get answers to those questions’ states Cllr Fiona McLoughlin Healy

At a Board meeting in December the executive (senior staff of KWETB) asked the board for direction regarding a letter demanding that legal fees of €82,000 be paid. Board members were reluctant to pay the bill and stated a number of reasons why. There were concerns that by the time the Board was made aware of the investigation or of the need for legal advice that almost €40,000 had already been raised in legal fees. Members also pointed out that they were being asked to pay for legal fees while at the same time being denied access to the legal files they were being asked to pay for. The matter was deferred to the next meeting on January 9th.

At the follow up meeting on January 9th Board members expressed shock and outrage when they were informed that the Acting CE had issued an instruction for the bill to be paid despite the expressed concerns of the Board.

At their Board meeting held on Monday (5th February)  in Tinakilly House hotel, Cllr Fiona McLoughlin Healy received support for her proposal to appoint a committee to report back to Noel Merrick Chair of the Board within a month regarding the bill. Board members voted on three  terms of reference. Firstly, that the committee review the circumstances around the hiring of the legal advisors Philip Lee. Secondly, that the committee review the circumstances around the payment of the €82,000 legal fee. And finally that the committee review the engagement of and payment to legal advisors for compliance with the Code of Practice for Education and Training Boards. With the exception of former Vice-Chair Cllr Brendan Weld who abstained from the votes, all Board members present on the day voted in favour of McLoughlin Healy’s proposal.

The Board nominated Cllr McLoughlin Healy, John Hurley and Cllr Reada Cronin to the committee tasked with the review and to report back to the Chair in a month.  The newly appointed Acting CE was not present at Monday’s meeting as he was on medical leave.

Monday’s meeting was a productive one. The executive also agreed to upload each board members remuneration from KWETB interview panels and conferences etc onto our website together with the Annual Financial Statement. This is a welcome development on the journey towards a more transparent and accountable organisation . Although the Code of Practice specifically recommends that board members earnings from KWETB be published, this has not been adhered to previously’ stated Cllr McLoughlin Healy

Cllr Teresa Murray asked that the Board be provided with a list of appointments at their bi-monthly meetings. Cllrs Jennifer Whitmore and Fiona McLoughlin Healy specifically asked for a list of all promotions awarded since the Comptroller and Auditor General arrived on site to conduct the audit which eventually led to the current investigation by the Department of Education and Skills
Last Monday’s public KWETB board meeting held in Tinakilly House Hotel.