Media Release - Financial governance and reporting in education and training boards

15 March 2021

A report of the Comptroller and Auditor General in relation to financial governance and reporting in education and training boards (ETBs) was presented to the Houses of the Oireachtas today.

Financial management is the system by which the resources of an organisation are planned, directed, monitored and controlled to enable it to achieve its goals.  Good financial management is essential for the effective running of an organisation.

The 16 ETBs constitute a national network for the provision of education and training services.  They were established in 2013, through the reorganisation of existing services.  The examination looked at financial governance and leadership; and financial monitoring and forecasting in a sample of five of the ETBs.  The aim of the examination was to assess how well financial management systems and practices had developed in the sector, since the reorganisation took place. 

Key examination findings:

  • There was inconsistency between the boards examined in relation to the levels of maturity of financial management systems that are considered appropriate.
  • The format of the financial statements for the ETB sector, which is determined by the Department of Education, does not comply with generally accepted accounting practice.
  • The ETBs rely largely on legacy financial management systems, which are inadequate for organisations of their size and complexity. The Department is supporting the development of a financial management shared services model for the ETB sector.   
  • By the end of June 2020, the Department had put in place performance delivery agreements with each ETB. Performance delivery agreements set out the key principles to be adhered to in relation to financial management/governance and accountability between the Department and an ETB.
  • A number of ETBs have concluded that the resources available for internal audit work were not adequate for organisations of their size and complexity.     
  • Attendance at board meetings could be improved. Each ETB board comprises 21 members.  While meetings are held consistently with a quorum (i.e. 12 or more members) in attendance, full attendance is not happening.  In some instances, non-attendance at meetings over a consecutive period of six months has triggered automatic resignations. 
  • The level of financial management skills and experience at board level was variable. Although training was provided to board members in 2017, financial management was not a significant part of the training provided. 
  • Board members often receive a large volume of information which is difficult to navigate. The financial information included in board papers is typically a one-page document which does not include any narrative information to explain the figures therein.

The examination identified instances of good practice in a number of areas in the financial governance and reporting systems in place in the sampled ETBs.  These examples of good practice when applied across the sector would generally improve the financial governance and reporting practices of ETBs. 

 

Notes for editors:

The Comptroller and Auditor General is an independent constitutional officer with responsibility for the audit of public funds. He reports to Dáil Éireann.

The report was signed by the Comptroller and Auditor General on 24 December 2020 and sent to the Minister for Education on 29 December 2020. Under section 11 of the Comptroller and Auditor General (Amendment) Act 1993, the Minister is required to present the report to Dáil Éireann within three months of the date on which the report was submitted to her.

16 ETBs were established on 1 July 2013 when the 33 predecessor vocational education committees (VECs) were dissolved.  In addition, they took on responsibility for 16 training centres transferred from SOLAS.

Click here to read the full text of the report.

Enquiries about the report should be directed to Josephine Mooney at (01) 863 8621 or pressrelease@audit.gov.ie