Thursday, 27 October 2011

PBRF rorts

Martin Lally of the University of Victoria at Wellington forwards the following email, which I have published here with his permission. I do not know anything about the claims there made, but they are consistent with rumours that floated around concerning the prior PBRF round and ... shenanigans around contracting allowing some universities to count people overseas towards their portfolio.
Dear colleagues  
I am sending this email in the interests of correcting some rumours that I have heard.   Over the past several weeks, I have heard claims from a number of senior staff in the University to the effect that Victoria University management have varied or sought to vary the employment contracts of a number of staff who are not active researchers, so as to ensure their temporary absence from the University at the June 2012 PBRF census date and thereby to improve the University’s PBRF result.  If true, such actions would clearly violate the spirit of the PBRF process and the Tertiary Education Commission requires universities to observe both the letter and the spirit of the process.  In short, any such actions would constitute accounting fraud.  
My first reaction to these (second-hand) claims was scepticism.  However, upon speaking to some people who had direct knowledge of some of these events, I was left satisfied well beyond a reasonable doubt that some such events had occurred.  Accordingly I conveyed my concerns to both the Tertiary Education Commission and the University Council.  As a result, the Chancellor has appointed a QC to investigate the allegations and provide a report to him; naturally I hope to see a copy of the report in due course.  I have been interviewed by the QC and have provided him with an overview of the information in my possession, but in such a way as to protect the confidentiality of my sources.  
I hope that the QC finds everything at Vic is fine, and that similar diligence is pursued at other universities. Some places would use a QC to find ways of rorting the system; it's a credit to Vic [and, in particular, those on Vic's Council that worked toward this outcome] that they're ensuring that individual units' incentives to rort the system do not work to denigrate the institution's overall reputation.

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