Students and taxpayers might find it strange that University College Cork is paying €3,000 a month on rental accommodation for its president, a TD says.
The €36,000 annual cost, based on a current three-year lease, was revealed by UCC chief financial officer Diarmuid Collins in response to a question by the Tipperary Labour TD Alan Kelly at a meeting with the Dáil Public Accounts Committee (PAC).
Patrick O’Shea returned from the US to take up a 10-year role as UCC president from February 2017, starting on a salary of €185,000.
“We don’t have an equivalent of a residence like other universities so we pay for rental accommodation for the president,” Mr Collins told the PAC.
Prof O’Shea added that the rent is treated as a benefit in kind, meaning he is liable for tax on the amount paid.
Mr Kelly acknowledged that University of Limerick and other colleges have a residence for their president on their campuses. He said he wished to find the amount being spent compared to other colleges.
For all he knows, he said, it may be cheaper than the comparable cost elsewhere.
“It would be a good thing to look at other costs across the board,” he said, suggesting that the Higher Education Authority take a comparative look at all the universities.
“It’s €36,000 a year to pay for rent for the president,” he said. “Obviously for students or for the public out there, that might seem strange, but I’ve set it in the right context I think.”
The PAC hearing was convened to discuss UCC’s financial statements for the year to the end of September 2016, which declared a surplus of €560,000.
As previously reported by the Irish Examiner, a factor in this was the €1.659m from its share of the 2016 sale of a former spinout company at UCC’s Tyndall National Institute to Facebook subsidiary Oculus.
The university received almost €1m more in royalties associated with the company’s technology, and Prof O’Shea told TDs that 100 people are currently employed by Oculus in Cork arising from the deal.
Mr Kelly said the committee does not accept UCC’s claim in a written reply to the PAC earlier this month that the eight-year €500,000-plus partnership with Cork Opera House is being funded by fee income other than that which comes from the exchequer.
“You can’t separate it, because if you didn’t have the taxpayers’ money in the first place, you wouldn’t be in a position to do it, it’s obvious and that goes for all third-level colleges,” he said.