OFFICIALS at the Department of Education had expressed concerns about the contractual arrangements of pianist John O'Conor before details of his lavish expenses account at the Royal Irish Academy of Music were revealed.

Recent reports showed that in his role as director of the RIAM, O'Conor ran up bills of nearly €28,500 on work-related entertainment at his home between 2005 and 2008.

In 2008 alone he spent €29,610 which included 50 lunches and 39 dinners. It was subsequently revealed he put €2,800 on his RIAM credit card during five trips to Positano, Italy between 2005 and 2009 when he was officially on holiday.

Dr Brian Aylward, chairman of the academy, recently defended the expenditure.

However, the Sunday Tribune has learned that at a board meeting of the RIAM last week, it was accepted that the spending was "not in best practice" and "inappropriate". The RIAM director Deborah Kelleher is due to appear before the PAC this Thursday.

A source close to the academy, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that reservations over O'Conor's contractual arrangements had been made within the department, which partially funds the academy, before his level of expenses was revealed.

In a statement on the matter, a spokesman said: "The arrangements entered into with O'Conor would not have been agreed by the department had such sanction been sought."

The source added that while it was accepted the levels of expenditure were unacceptable, O'Conor brought a lot of influence to the academy and raised its profile through many of the functions funded by his expense account.

"But nonetheless they all have to take the consequences of what was allowed to take place."