Parliament 'misled' by funding council executive

September 3, 1999

College funding council chief executive David Melville "misled" Parliament during a select committee evidence session, the Public Accounts Committee said today.

Professor Melville gave evidence on behalf of the Further Education Funding Council as part of the PAC's inquiry into financial irregularities at Halton College, in which Pounds 14 million of public money was wrongly claimed by the college, and in which more than Pounds 200,000 was spent on "extravagant" junkets by the former principal, Martin Jenkins, and other managers.

During the inquiry, it emerged that Halton College paid Pounds 12,000 of public money towards Mr Jenkins's legal costs, although Mr Jenkins was pursing legal action against the college and the Further Education Funding Council.

Professor Melville, asked twice during an evidence session last April about who paid the legal bill, said "to the best of [his] knowledge" the college had made no payments, and that Mr Jenkins's trade union had paid.

The PAC report into the affair, published today, says: "We view with serious concern the fact that the funding council and the college misled the committee by agreeing in evidence that the board of the college had made no contribution to the principal's legal costs. The decision to fund even part of the principal's legal costs was extraordinary."

Professor Melville today "totally" refuted the PAC's claim, saying that its questions specifically related to the costs incurred by Mr Jenkins in his attempts to prepare for a judicial review.

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