Auditors and two top staff under scrutiny at London Met

Report calls for investigations into role of deputy vice-chancellor, finance director and internal audit firm. Melanie Newman reports

March 19, 2010

London Metropolitan University is investigating two senior members of staff and its internal auditors following a new report into its recent financial woes.

At a board meeting on 17 March, the university’s governors considered a report on the executive team’s involvement in errors in student completion data that led to a £36.5 million clawback by the Higher Education Funding Council for England in 2009.

The report, by the law firm Eversheds, advises that “additional investigations, including interviews and further document recovery” are needed with respect to the deputy vice-chancellor, Bob Aylett, and the finance director, Pam Nelson.

The board had committed to investigate the role of senior staff mentioned in two reports commissioned by the university last year, one by Deloitte and one by Sir David Melville.

Brian Roper stood down as vice-chancellor in March 2009 after the scale of the data inaccuracies emerged, and all of the lay governors on the board at the time that the inaccurate data were submitted to Hefce are to leave this year.

In a statement, the university says that aside from Dr Aylett and Ms Nelson, Eversheds found “no evidence that justified further investigation of other current employees of the university (including the university’s secretary) mentioned in the Melville and Deloitte reports”. It adds that the lawyers have not uncovered evidence that “merited suspending any members of staff at this point of time”.

Eversheds did, however, recommend scrutiny of the role of Kingston City Group, a firm that provided internal management assurance services to the university but that was not mentioned in either of the previous reports into the affair.

Last year, Hefce said the university should take advice on whether or not Mr Roper had breached his fiduciary duties. Eversheds has now advised it not to claim against him, the statement says.

The University and College Union said it was “surprised” by “certain aspects” of the Eversheds report.

Also at the meeting earlier this week, the board appointed Clive Jones, the chairman of GMTV, as the new chair of governors and chairman of the finance and human resources committee. Mark Robson, head of the monetary and financial statistics division of the Bank of England, has been named vice-chair of governors and chair of the audit committee. Both men will take up post on 1 April.

Since last year, the university has in effect been governed by a committee chaired by Tony Millns, chief executive of English UK. The committee includes London Met’s new vice-chancellor, Malcolm Gillies.

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