Topics for Discussion written by Harold Hillman

In recent years a great many cases of apparent abuse, malpractice and bullying have come to light in the higher education sector and the institutional responses have virtually never been satisfactory. With this in mind, CAFAS has contacted the government agencies responsible for funding and quality assurance in our higher education institutions. The aim is to open a dialogue about the procedures and principles applied in these cases.

Below, are listed the topics these agencies are invited to discuss with CAFAS.

TOPICS FOR DISCUSSION WITH NATIONAL AUDIT OFFICE (NAO)

These topics relate specifically to the role of NAO in relation to alleged irregularities and improprieties in the Higher Education sector.

1. Means by which matters for investigation get to NAO; criteria for deciding whether, and how, to investigate and report.
2. Basis on which NAO advises the Public Accounts Committee whether to hold a hearing on an NAO report.
3. Quality assurance arrangements in NAO investigations, testing of evidence.
4. Mechanisms for responding to controversial reports and correcting any errors in reports.
5. Role in monitoring the use of public funds, e.g. in judging the reasonableness of payments by an institution and in monitoring financial settlements.
6. Criteria for judging fraud; action taken in the event of such a finding by NAO.
7. NAO’s advice on appropriate ways in which individuals should address suspected irregularities; the role of the police, reliance on institutional governance.
8. Location of NAO’s responsibilities to “whistleblowers” who have pointed out irregularities.

TOPICS FOR DISCUSSION WITH HEFCE (Higher Education Funding Council)

All these topics are concerned specifically with HEFCE’s role and activities in the Higher Education sector.

1. Basis of appointment of HEFCE Council.
2. Mechanisms for monitoring institutions’ adherence to the terms of their Charted Articles, in the interests of good governance.
3. Monitoring of the numbers of freemasons involved in university governance and senior university positions.
4. Mechanisms for obtaining and testing information about the governance and performance of individual institutions.
5. Availability of mechanisms by which members of staff of individual institutions may refer matters of concern to HEFCE.
6. Procedures by which individual institutions or individual members of staff of an institution may have complaints, against HEFCE’s actions or decisions, dealt with.
7. Responsibility and mechanisms for ensuring the proper use of public funds.
8. Policy on dealing with representations about improprieties in universities, especially concerning finance and governance.
9. Policy and procedures regarding the repayment of public funds that have been misapplied.
10. Actions in dealing with conflicts of interest in individual institutions and in HEFCE itself. HEFCE’s actions in monitoring and ensuring avoidance of such conflicts of interest.
11. Policy on involvement with institutions over disciplinary matters, e.g. through the offer of advice or solutions.
12. Commitment to/responsibility for the protection of “whistleblowers” in the Higher Education sector. Guidance given by HEFCE on this issue.
13. Actions to advise on and monitor the use of Compromise Agreements by universities where staff are dismissed or otherwise leave.

CAFAS TOPICS FOR DISCUSSION WITH A UNIVERSITY

These topics relate specifically to the approach of the Universities in relation to governance issues.

1. Responsibility for ensuring adherence to the Articles and other governance requirements.
2. Mechanisms for preventing conflicts of interest on the part of governors and senior staff.
3. Procedures for appointing members of the Board of Governors, transparency of those procedures.
4. The extent of freemasonry among governors and senior staff and the implications of this for the good governance of the university.
5. Mechanisms by which the Board of Governors responds to allegations of misdemeanour on the part of senior members of staff or governors.
6. Arrangements for protecting “whistleblowers”.
7. Policy on requiring repayments of public funds that have been misappropriated.
8. Determination of payments to departing staff on termination of their contracts. Public availability of information on such payments and whether they are included in audited accounts.
9. Arrangements for providing redress in the event of errors, injustice or ultra vires actions. Procedures for appointing members for any committee of investigation and arrangements for ensuring transparency of its proceedings and conclusions.

17 July 2004

Contact
Harold Hillman