Fast-living staff spark inquiry into college finances

February 19, 1999

The Modern University, one of Portugal's best-known private universities, is under investigation for alleged financial irregularities.

The judicial police, Portugal's public prosecution service, is looking into three complaints and expects to report back in two months. The ministry of education has since announced it has some reservations about standards at the university.

While the judicial police remains silent, the press has questioned why an institution that two years ago held financial reserves of E3.49 million (Pounds 2.4 million) now owes various Portuguese banks E8.4 million. The university derives most of its income from tuition fees, charging its 10,000 students an average of E200 a month. It has also received E2 million in government subsidies over the past three years.

Inquiries by daily newspapers O PNoblico and Di rio de Notcias have revealed the university has not paid VAT for three years and in June 1998 owed the Department of Social Security E199,000.

Accounts of the extravagant lifestyle led by some university managers has fed speculation about the state of its finances. Jose Braga Goncalves, lawyer son of the rector and deputy secretary general of the university, is at the centre of attention. His new year party at his E3 million country mansion was widely reported in the society pages last month.

Attention was drawn to his activities as a freemason when an internal feud at the Grand Lodge at Cascais turned nasty in 1997 and security guards began being employed at the university.

Members of the university management have also displayed a taste for fast cars: official spending on company cars came to almost E1 million in 1997 and the most recent acquisition this year was a XK8 Jaguar for manager Carlos Fernandes.

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