A draft review of the funding and governance of the organization that represents parents in secondary schools last year called into question more than €200,000 in spending over 11 months.
Last September, the Department of Education issued a public tender for an independent expert, Governance Ireland, to carry out a review of the governance and financial arrangements in the National Parents Council Post-Primary.
The report said the council – which derives most of its revenue from state funds – did not participate in the review despite multiple requests from Governance Ireland and the Department for Education.
As a result, the review was based on the limited information it could access and without board involvement.
The draft report – due to be released shortly – raises questions about travel, spending and credit card use, and who approved the spending.
It questioned whether government procurement guidelines had been followed, whether there was a formal travel and expenses policy and whether all expenses were documented or paid on receipts.
It was also queried whether there was a company policy on the use of credit cards and who administered or authorized them.
His other conclusions included:
- the structure of the organization no longer provides for a representative council for all secondary school parents’ associations across Ireland;
- the structure may have outlived its purpose, its followings, its effectiveness and “may no longer be fit for purpose”;
- Limited financial data suggested a more forensic financial audit was needed to convince the financier.
The review recommended that the department suspend further funding until the organization can demonstrate that all governance and financial arrangements are compliant.
The council said it disagrees with the findings, represents more post-primary parent panels than ever before and its representatives are active in all major areas of discussion.
It said its board members are all volunteers, not receiving payment for their “dedication and dedication,” and that a professional secretariat is in place with a staff of five.
Efforts had been made to undermine the organization through unjustified delays and withholding of funds over the past two years.
It also insisted it had never refused to take part in the review, saying the organisation’s leadership is “exemplary” and overseen by independent bodies and that all required filings and declarations are up to date.
It added that all procurement followed correct practices overseen by its auditors and that all professional support was independent.
The organization said an “unknown motive” may have meant that much of this submission was omitted, the content of the review was outdated and the majority of secondary schools had registered with the organization.
However, it emerged that “not one parent or organization” had been contacted by any of these schools.
“Without their involvement, there can be no fair reflection of opinion or independent conclusions,” it added.
In a statement, a spokeswoman for the Department of Education said it has a duty to ensure that all funds are accounted for and that there is transparency in the management of public funds.
She said the board of the council has consistently refused to participate in this review process.
“It is an extremely serious matter that an entity receiving subsidy payments from treasury funds paid by this department would refuse to participate in such a review,” she said.
As a result, the department has suspended further subsidy payments in violation of its financial supervision obligation.
In order to ensure continuity of support for parents, the Ministry of Education has formally requested the National Primary Parents’ Council to extend its remit and support to parents after primary school.
https://www.irishtimes.com/ireland/education/2023/03/05/review-questions-spending-of-200000-at-second-level-parents-council/ Review questions €200,000 spending at second tier parent council – The Irish Times