Gwent report under wraps

An emergency meeting of governors at Gwent Tertiary College this week decided to keep a damning report into its management secret, writes Ngaio Crequer. The governors met for four hours, but were unable to decide on any recovery plan.

The report was written by Cyril Lewis, former principal of Swansea College, and accountants Ernst and Young, and is understood to be highly critical of the way the college has been managed.

The college is forecasting a deficit of Pounds 7 million in 1997-98 and is aiming to reduce its number of managers from 118 to 35 in an attempt to reduce the deficit.

The principal, Sue Parker, was originally suspended after the college received the report, and then she resigned. The chair and vice-chair of governors have also resigned, and it is understood they wanted the report to be made public.

The governors met for more than four hours and decided virtually nothing, except not to make the report public. They took 30 minutes to elect a chair, and even then for only one meeting. He is Chris Hughes, a local businessman.

Professor John Andrews, chief executive of the Further Education Funding Council for Wales, addressed the meeting and praised the work carried out by Mr Lewis.

He said it was not possible to publish the report as, due to the speed with which the investigation had been carried out, it had not been possible to check all the details. He said to publish would need the agreement of himself, the corporation, Ernst and Young and Mr Lewis.

The college deferred a decision on how to respond to a recovery plan prepared by Mr Lewis.

Professor Andrews said the Audit Commission and the funding council would undertake a full review in the autumn, which would be published: "There will be no cover-up and the review will be fully open, in accordance with Nolan (the committee on standards in public life)." He said the earlier report was intended only as an operational document.

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