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'Worrying' level of overspending at Irish universities, says TD

A Cork TD has expressed disbelief at UCC’s €138,000 taxi bill.

Image: Kman999 via Flickr

FOLLOWING REVELATIONS THAT Ireland’s seven universities spent over €1 million on room hire and another €377,000 on taxis during 2011, a TD has called for third level institutes to be more thrifty.

The figures released by the Department of Education before Christmas highlight a worrying level of overspend and waste, says Labour TD Michael McCarthy.

The money used by all seven of Ireland’s universities on ancillary areas such as room and taxi hire, legal fees, staff agency costs and remuneration for visiting lecturers were published after McCarthy asked Minister Ruairi Quinn for a breakdown of spending in a Dáil questions-and-answers session.

“At a time when the third-level sector is struggling to fund itself, such costs cannot be justified…The figures show how the State’s main universities need to achieve greater economies and efficiencies in how they go about their business,” McCarthy said in a statement to TheJournal.ie.

The deputy was particularly critical of the University College Cork’s €138,000 spend on taxis in the 12-month period.

“It has to be asked who authorised this kind of spending on taxi hire – what travel was involved, and what level of accountability there is for it,” he said.

[The college's] central location, and its close proximity to the train station and the airport, calls into question the college’s high taxi bill and there needs to be further clarification on the reasons behind these startling costs.”

The other six institutes spent between just €25,000 and €54,000 on taxi hire during 2011.

Trinity College Dublin spent over €550,000 on room hire costs – the most of any of the universities. In contrast, University Limerick did not spend anything on hiring rooms for the year and did not pay expenses for visiting lecturers.

McCarthy has called on Minister Quinn to examine the spending of universities to ensure that money is not “wasted”.

Third-level colleges are regularly critical of the level of public funding they receive. With this in mind, it is vital that taxpayers are assured they are getting proper value for money.”

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