Evidence has emerged that the University of Limerick misled the Department of Education and the Comptroller and Auditor General during an inquiry into its payments of unauthorised and excessive severance packages to senior managers.

The unauthorised severance payments were originally spotted by the Comptroller and Auditor General as part of a special report in the management of severance payments in the public sector.

The revelations were included in the RTÉ Investigates: Universities Unchallenged programme.

The programme examined the lack of oversight and accountability in publicly-funded universities and colleges in Ireland and revealed examples of poor corporate governance and the waste of taxpayers' money.

It revealed some significant gaps in the amount of information available to the Higher Education Authority and the Department of Education about the way universities run their financial affairs.

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, Public Accounts Committee Chairman Seán Fleming said he was very concerned about the issues raised.

He said the committee was misled by heads of UCC, DIT, UL and NUIG - about the way they run their financial affairs.

Over the last two months the PAC had heads of universities and other third-level institutions before it for lengthy meetings.

Mr Fleming said the level of arrogance displayed by some of the heads of colleges at the PAC meetings came through on last night's programme.

A serious change of culture is needed at the most senior level, he said, and he welcomed the change of leadership at University of Limerick.

The university heads showed a lack of openness and candour, Mr Fleming said, whereas the committee found the whistleblowers to be "honest and straightforward".

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Mr Fleming said there was "a systematic failure to keep financial accounts up to date" at these universities.

He also criticised the "lack of hands on approach" by the department and the HEA in continuing funding to the colleges when a lack of up-to-date financial information was available.

Meanwhile, the new President of the University of Limerick Dr Des Fitzgerald said he was "appalled" by the revelations.

Dr Fitzgerald, who became president of the university just three weeks ago, has asked the Department of Education to carry out an independent review led by Dr Richard Thorn, which he hopes will rebuild trust in the institution.

Speaking on RTÉ's Today with Sean O'Rourke programme, Dr Fitzgerald said he wanted to make it clear that the issues involved relate to governance and management issues and not academic matters at the university.

Of particular concern to Dr Fitzgerald was how three whistleblowers were treated despite the fact the issues they raised were valid, and yet they had left or were suspended from the institution.

He also expressed concern about the large severance payments made to some people and certain conflict of interests.

Limerick Fianna Fáil TD, Niall Collins has called on the Minister for Education to "lift the veil of secrecy" surrounding philanthropic funding in all universities and "beef up" the Higher Education Authority powers of inquiry.

Speaking on RTÉ's Drivetime, he said there needs to be proper transparency, proper accountability and proper oversight within Ireland's third-level landscape.

He said "the elites" in senior management at the University of Limerick have "brought a cloud" over all staff. 

Mr Collins said the new president of the university has taken a refreshing decision seeking to correct the issues.