DIT were recently before the Public Accounts Committee in relation to its consolidated 2013/2014 financial statements to instances of non-compliance with public procurement requirements.
According to Oireachtas.ie, the value of goods and services that were subject to competitive tendering during that year was €5.1m, which represented 11.4% of total non-pay expenditure.
Representing DIT at the meeting was Professor Brian Norton, President of DIT, Denis Murphy, Director of Corporate Services, Dr. Noel O’Connor, Director of Student Development with internal responsibility for the DIT campus development, and Colm Whelan, Head of Finance.
Representing the PAC committee were ministers Alan Kelly, Catherine Kelly and Catherine Murphy.
The stand-out figure within the €5.1m was just over €700,000 lost to library and journal services company SWETS UK. Shortly after receiving the payment from DIT, SWETS UK went bankrupt.
DIT paid €700,000 to SWETS UK in July 2014 and SWETS UK went bankrupt on the 1st of October.
To date, DIT have never recovered any of the money lost to SWETS UK.
In addition to the €700,000 lost, DIT paid out a further €763,000 to an alternative supplier to maintain library services for the academic year beginning September 2014.
A spokesperson for the President of DIT said “DIT availed of the procured service in 2012 and 2013 without difficulty. In July 2014 the order was renewed as before. Two months later DIT was informed that an administrator had been appointed to the company”.
“There has been no reduction in the library budget as a result of this loss,” the spokesperson added.
While other colleges throughout Ireland lost significant amounts of money, DIT’s loss was by far the largest.
The closest loss to DIT’s in Ireland was Carlow IT, who lost €45,000.
When quizzed by Minister Alan Kelly on the matter, President Norton stated that DIT had used SWETS library services for 15 years and no issues relating to “finical soundness” were ever flagged before.
SWETS UK had a liquidator appointed on the 20th of September 2006 and their sister company SWETS N.V. reported a reduced profit due to “uncertainties” in the market place.
The Education Procurement Service (EPS), a public tender process institute based in the University of Limerick, wrote up the three year contract in 2012.
However, the renewal of the contract, which happens on a yearly basis, is processed by the department of finance within DIT.
DIT’s library on Mountjoy Square serving DIT’s Access programme was closed in September 2014. When quizzed about the closure, a spokesperson for President Norton said: “DIT currently has six library locatons based around the largest student numbers.”
“They are currently Bolton Street, Cathal Brugha Street, Grangegorman, Aungier Street, Kevin Street and Rathmines. Mountjoy Square is no longer one of them for reasons of scale and resources”.
The Access students are now forced to go to DIT’s library on Cathal Brugha street, which already has the largest ratio of students to square foot of space.
Cathal Brugha street library also has no books associated to the social sciences and humanities, which are the main subjects covered by the Access programme.
Sources close to the Access programme and past pupils have said no books from the reading list of the Access programme have been bought for the Cathal Brugha street library.
This story also appears in DIT’s Student Newspaper The Edition