Paid for education, spent on Yantai – Public money misspent on Yantai
We have read the report on the time registration for Yantai with great interest. We did however only receive it yesterday at 5 pm, under embargo. Meanwhile, the report was finished and shared with the Board of Directors and the Supervisory Board a month ago.
Once again, we have been taken seriously. Despite the continuous effort by the University Council to bring the issues with the time registration to the attention of several bodies. We have told the Supervisory Board twice explicitly, reported the issues to the Education Inspectorate and brought it up countless times in meetings with the Board of Directors. Each time without being heard.
In the end, media attention was necessary to start a proper investigation. We believe that this is not the way to work together with the participation bodies of the university.
But okay, there finally is a report. And it proves that the University Council was right all along. Despite some reservations about the Ecorys report, we share their conclusion: the University of Groningen did not reimburse all personnel costs from private funds. The actual number of hours worked on Yantai is twice the number reported by the Board of Directors. With the involvement of the University Council, taxpayers’ money would have been spent on Yantai. That would have been against the law.
Therefore, we were shocked by the conclusions drawn up by Mr Klaassen. They go way beyond the scope of the Ecorys report. He states that there is no culpable behavior, and for the following reason:
First of all, staff was not pressured to declare little or no hours. The actual question is if the UG made it knowingly impossible for staff to declare hours for the project. Was dropping the well-established IQBS time registration system a hidden way to reduce the costs for Yantai? The Ecorys report does not answer that question, but does state that no longer using IQBS is the reason for the lack of hours declared.
Furthermore, Klaassen calls the amount of public money spent on Yantai ‘relatively small’. We thinks that a doubling of the number of hours spent is very substantial, more so as the UG has always stated that they acted in accordance with the law.
There was but one rule: public money cannot be spent on the Yantai campus, not even for preparations. The conclusion by Klaassen that the errors made were due to the complex situation, is therefore a mystery to us. Especially as the solution proposed by Klaassen, IQBS, was actually used in the first year of Yantai preparations.
Finally, Klaassen states that education and research at the UG were not put under pressure by the Yantai project. Ecorys has a clearly different conclusion: “Some employees reported that educational tasks were jeopardized. Multiple respondents indicated that their research activities were (to a limited extent) jeopardized. The same can be said of staff with management tasks: acitivies for the Yantai programme were completed in regular hours, that were meant for other activities related to the faculty or programme.”
These are the signals that we heard first in January 2016. For that point onwards, the University Council has highlighted the problems with the time registration. Time after time, these calls were ignored. That is evidence of maladministration. We feel that this cannot be without consequences.