Contracts awarded to firm with connections to ex Chief Exec Sean Ashe by Kildare and Wicklow Education and Training Board

C&AG says board was unable to challenge executive because their information was incomplete

Conor McHugh

Reporter:

Conor McHugh

Email:

conor@leinsterleader.ie

Contracts were awarded to firm with connections to Sean Ashe by Kildare and Wicklow Education and Training  Board

Former Chief Executive of KWETB Sean Ashe

The Comptroller and Auditor General (C&AG) has released a highly critical report into the operation of Kildare and Wicklow Education and Training Board during the tenure of the previous CEO, Sean Ashe.

In particular the C&AG has looked at organisation’s financial statements for 2015 and discovered, among other things that contracts were awarded to a firm with connections to Mr Ashe, and were not disclosed.

The report, published earlier today says that the board of KWETB was unable to challenge the executive in an effective way during 2015.

They say that incomplete information was provided to the board, that there were delays in the establishment of statutory sub-committees and a lack of internal audit resources.

It adds that an effective process for review of internal controls was not in place and the organisation did not actively pursue the fact that declarations of interest were not submitted and did not critically review the content of declarations that were made.

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The report, entitled ‘Kildare and Wicklow Education and Training Board Financial Statements 2015 — Supplementary Report’ found also that the KWETB rented an industrial property in 2015 which was subsequently partially licensed to the same firm connected to Mr Ashe.

“There was inadequate documentation of the on-licensing arrangements — rent and service costs were only paid to KWETB after concerns were raised by the audit.

“KWETB disposed of a van in January 2017, but received no payment until after audit queries were raised. In addition, a full year’s motor tax was paid by KWETB just before the disposal occurred.

“Poor contract management practice contributed to additional costs of €483,000 regarding the construction of Arklow Community College.

“In April 2015, modular classrooms were installed in Naas Community National School at a cost of €206,000. These classrooms were relocated to Maynooth Post Primary School three months later at a cost of €73,000.

KWETB incurred significant expenditure with certain hotels without a competitive procurement process.”

The report points to what it calls a “lack of evidence available from KWETB to support procurement processes” which is it said “is concerning, and indicative of poor control.

“Furthermore, there are serious concerns as to the overall integrity of procurement by the Board due to the use of reduced deadlines for the submission of tenders, failure of successful bidders to meet minimum required standards in respect of contractor’s annual turnover and experience, and errors, inconsistencies and lack of supporting information for scoring tenders received.”

In a statement, the KWETB under new CEO Dr Deirdre Keyes, accepted the findings of the C&AG “and is committed to addressing the issues identified in this report through its Corporate Governance Programme which, they pointed out is agreed between them and the Department of Education and Skills.

Dr Keyes confirmed that work is well underway on the implementation of the KWETB Corporate Governance Programme and that KWETB will provide regular updates to the Board, Department of Education and Skills and to other relevant bodies and agencies as required.