An Oireachtas committee has heard that a university's governing body was "horrified" to discover that it may have been "misled" over a substantial property acquisition.

University of Limerick Chancellor Mary Harney told the Public Accounts Committee that when concerns were raised over the €8 million purchase, an investigation was immediately ordered.

That report was completed by KPMG last December.

But publication is being held up by a High Court action being taken by a former university employee.

PAC chairman Sinn Féin Deputy Brian Stanley said that he has repeatedly sought a copy of the report, which the university has refused to provide.

This is "an intolerable situation", which is impeding the work of the committee, he said.

Ms Harney said that she is "frustrated" at being unable to provide the report, and will use "every legal vehicle" to get it published.

However, she said "iIt would be reckless of me to ignore legal advice that would expose the university to financial penalties".

And she added that UL remains "dogged in controversy... and I regret that very, very much".

"There is nobody more than me and the governing body that wants to see this report", Ms Harney said, noting that she has not been given a copy herself.

Two capital grants worth almost €4m have been "paused" by the Department of Higher Education pending publication of the report, the committee heard.

The controversy arises from the purchase of a former Dunnes Stores site in Limerick city centre in April 2019.

"It's a very iconic site, it's a riverside site", Ms Harney said, adding that "there was great enthusiasm and excitement" on the UL Governing Authority when it voted - "unanimously", she noted, - to buy it.

She dismissed an earlier site evaluation of €3 million, saying it had been for "the purposes of declaring the site derelict and putting it on the vacant site register".

"Dunnes looked for €10 million", the university "put €6.5 million on the table", before they "settled on €8 million", Ms Harney told the committee.

"We were told that valuation papers were tabled in the negotiations", she insisted.

However, a Freedom of Information (FOI) request subsequently revealed that "there was no written valuation report", she added.

"We were horrified as governors that we were told something that didn't exist", Ms Harney said.

Asked by Labour's Sean Sherlock whether the 29-member board should have asked to see written documentation of the evaluation, Ms Harney replied: "I think that will be the learning".

Sinn Féin's Matt Carthy said that boards which "simply aren’t up (to), or capable, or willing to face up to the executive" are "widespread".

"There was no valuation seen - I think that’s incredible", Deputy Stanley said.

Ms Harney told the committee that the Governing Authority is "entitled to expect that - if a proposal comes from the President and Deputy President of the University, that - all the information in the memorandum, in the proposal, is accurate".

The committee heard that both individuals have since left the university.

Following the FOI revelations, the Authority ordered an inquiry to establish if it was "misled", Ms Harney said.

Following legal advice, she added, the report had been circulated "to those adversely affected" prior to publication, and "then the legal challenge came".

Following a call "from a media outlet last Thursday", the university learned that a second capital grant was being withheld, Ms Harney revealed.

"We were completed blindsided", she said, adding that the University President "has had a call from the Minister for the Higher Education to apologise over the leak".

Ms Harney noted that this was her second appearance at an Oireachtas committee since leaving politics, the last one having been before the Banking Inquiry.

She laughed when Deputy Carthy said she was "a very high profile "catch’" for UL, and noted that she accepts no remuneration or expenses for her work at the university.