New investigation into Yantai funding
Inspectorate spokesperson Jan-Willem Swane confirmed the investigation on Wednesday morning. ‘New information has recently come to light, partly in the media.’ This information provided enough reason for the Inspectorate to take a closer look at the RUG’s bookkeeping, Swane says.
The RUG started preparations to build a branch campus in the Chinese city of Yantai, together with the China Agricultural University (CAU). The Ministry of Education imposed several important requirements on the project: the RUG’s co-determination parties had to agree to the plans, and no tax funds could be spent on the campus.
In January of this year, the university council announced they would not agree to Yantai. The council was unable to support the plans and was worried about the process of preparations for the project.
The Personnel faction was told that employees working on the project were prevented from recording all the hours they worked. Student party DAG suspected that the university was messing around with money and turning public funds into private ones. They this this is how the RUG found a workaround and managed to use tax funds for the project after all.
The university board maintained that everything was done by the book, but failed to produce any evidence of this in spite of repeated requests from the council. Student party Lijst Calimero reached the end of its rope just before the summer and submitted an anonymous report to the Inspectorate of Education.
‘I wasn’t on the council back then, so I’m not sure exactly when the report was filed, but it was sometime in May’, Calimero faction chair Younes Moustaghfir explains. His faction is happy with the planned investigation: ‘We’re glad the Inspectorate is taking the university council’s concerns seriously.’
DAG is also pleased. ‘It’s the only logical step’, says Koen Marée, who represents DAG on the council. ‘We’re confident about the results.’ Marée’s council predecessor, Jasper Been, investigated the preparation costs for the campus on his own over the past few months. On 31 August, the Financieele Dagblad published his findings.
Been is pleasantly surprised by the Inspectorate’s decision to investigate. ‘In 2017 they said they assumed that the RUG had done everything by the book; I was worried they were trying to save their own skin.’
The RUG keeps invoking the Inspectorate’s 2017 conclusion. ‘The Inspectorate determined that the provenance of the private funds was above board. We didn’t do anything untoward, and we reached agreements about the proper accountability of the funds with the inspectors ahead of time.’
‘Judgements are based on the questions asked at the time, as well as the available information’, Swane says. ‘A year has passed and the new information that has come to light has led to new questions.’
The investigation will probably conclude towards the end of 2018, and the results will be published in January of 2019.