Maynooth University decision to cancel Student Centre costs college €1.68m

The report confirmed that the revised contract price ran the risk of potentially breaching Public Procurement rules.
Maynooth University decision to cancel Student Centre costs college €1.68m

Gordon Deegan

The decision by Maynooth University (MU) to terminate the construction contract for its planned MU Student Centre has cost the university €1.68 million.

Last September, the college terminated the contract and the university’s 2022 annual report cites the impact of ongoing hyperinflation in the construction sector and a technical construction issue behind “the difficult decision" to cancel the contract.

The report confirmed that the revised contract price ran the risk of potentially breaching Public Procurement rules.

The decision to cancel came under fire from the Maynooth University Students’ Union, as the project was being funded through a €150 annual student levy since 2015.

To date, €11 million has been raised from the student levy.

Now, under the heading of ‘Write off of Student Centre costs’ in the 2022 annual report, it puts a cost of €1.68m related to the termination of the construction contract for MU Student Centre.

President of the MU Students’ Union, Niall Daly said on Monday that the University has committed that any student levy money spent on the student centre would be replenished to the Student Levy fund and there is no cost to the Student Levy fund from the decision to cancel the student centre.

In his report, College Bursar, Dr Mike O’Malley states that the University “remains committed to investing in student facilities, including a student building and the Students Facilities Project Advisory Group has been established to make recommendations on the development of such facilities”.

The University has ringfenced €26.7 million to be invested on student facilities, including a student building.

The annual report also reveals that Maynooth University has lodged an insurance claim to RSA for the loss of income and additional expenses associated with Covid-19 restrictions.

The MU 2022 annual report discloses that the third level college recorded a surplus of €14.43m in the 12 months to the end of September last.

The marginal increase in surplus followed revenues increasing by 19pc from €197.7 million to €235 million last year.

Concerning the Covid-19 insurance claim lodged with RSA, Dr O’Malley states that “negotiations are ongoing, the outcome of the process is uncertain, and any potential settlement amount cannot be quantified at the time of writing”.

The surpluses of €14.43 million last year and €14.29 million in 2021 followed much smaller surpluses of €6.4 million in 2020 and €228,000 in 2019.

In his report, Dr O’Malley states that “our income grew in line with projections and the University made significant cost savings across a number of expenditure items”.

He states: “Both the surpluses in the current and prior year are specifically related to the operating environment during Covid-19 and are unlikely to be repeated when expenditure patterns return to normal.”

Professor Eeva Leinonen was appointed MU President in October 2021 and the report discloses that the post of President came with a 2021/22 salary of €208,509.

Arising from a 2020 Governing Authority decision to provide a residence for the President, accommodation is currently provided for the President and the President paid €13,500 benefit in kind on the relevant element of the rental expenditure.

Student fee income last year increased from €86.07 million to €92 million, research grants and contracts went up from €31.8m to €48.05m while residence income increased from €3.8 million to €5.63 million.

Staff costs increased from €116.82 million to €127.23 million. Numbers earning over €100,000 increased from from 159 to 163. Dr O'Malley stated that staff costs increased by €8.8 million primarily driven by pay restoration and pay awards, backdated to February 2nd 2022.

At the end of last September, the college’s total reserves amounted to €240.78 million while its cash funds totalled €90.17 million.

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