Auditors clear former v-c and wife's expenses

September 17, 2009

Leeds Metropolitan University will clarify its policies on staff expenses after an independent investigation found that senior managers had failed to provide receipts for items bought on university purchase cards.

The KPMG review, which was commissioned by the university, looked at expenditure made by its former vice-chancellor, Simon Lee, his wife, Patricia, and management expenses generally.

Its analysis of 18 management transactions totalling £298,492 found no evidence of wrongdoing, but £22,476 of claims were not backed up by receipts.

However, the auditors concluded that these expenses were "incurred in the reasonable pursuit of university objectives".

The university's audit committee requested the review after concerns over Professor Lee's expenditure.

Of a total of £72,923 of non-fuel expenses incurred by Professor Lee between August 2006 and February 2009, £7,509 was not supported by receipts. The auditors said they were satisfied that the expenditure was related to university business.

KPMG said Leeds Met's expenses policy did not cover spouses' expenses, but there was evidence that the university had accepted Ms Lee as an "informal ambassador". Ms Lee's trips cost £35,608.

"Evidence and discussions with university staff support the fact that each of (Ms Lee's) trips was in connection with university business or activities," KPMG's report says.

But three overseas trips where Ms Lee travelled without her husband were noted for a "lack of evidence of formal approval of Ms Lee's participation". A visit to Ethiopia cost £3,573, including £1,613 for a business-class flight and a stay in a £265-per-night hotel.

Professor Lee said: "I am of course delighted, but not surprised, that we have been vindicated."

Geoff Hitchins, acting vice-chancellor, said: "KPMG found that all expenditure has been in line with meeting the university's business objectives, but that a small number of staff transactions have not been in technical compliance with our policies, or there has been a lack of clarity around some policies."

melanie.newman@tsleducation.com

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