The President of the University of Limerick has told an Oireachtas committee that severance payments given to staff were "unacceptably high".

Des Fitzgerald said that since his appointment he has called for an independent review of the university and that his concern is to protect the reputation of the institution.

He is appearing before the Public Accounts Committee, which is continuing its hearings on the financial statements of third level bodies.

Dr Fitzgerald said the community worked hard to make sure that a university was established in the midwest region.

He told the committee that UL as a public body has a responsibility to ensure that money is spent properly and transparently, and he, in his new role, takes responsibility for that.

Cork Institute of Technology was criticised by members of the PAC for framing the terms of reference into an investigation into allegations made by a whistleblower about the college.

The investigation was carried out by KPMG.

Dr Graham Love, Chief Executive of the Higher Education Authority, told the committee that the terms of reference were robust.

Labour TD Alan Kelly said no college should write its own terms of reference for an investigation into itself.

Fianna Fáil's Marc MacSharry said it was wholly inappropriate "to allege that the fox had attacked the hen house and to allow the fox set the terms of reference into the alleged incident".

He questioned what was the purpose of the HEA if organisations like KPMG were conducting these investigations.

Mr MacSharry also asked why an artist was paid €22,000 to paint portraits of CIT President Brendan Murphy, when the college has an art department.

He asked why staff or students at the college were not asked to do the portraits. Mr Murphy said it has not been the practice.