AOC chief accepted cash from finance firm

7th November 1997 at 00:00
Roger Ward, the chief executive of the Association of Colleges, was paid #163;650 a month in a consultancy agreement with a leading financial services company, when he was heading the Colleges Employers Forum.

Documents seen by The TES give details of the arrangement with the healthcare policy provider, Burke Ford, which was in place by June 1995.

Keith Scribbins, the then chair of the CEF, an employers' organisation subscribed to by the largely publicly-funded colleges, said this week that Mr Ward had an "exclusive contract" with the CEF.

He said: "Permission would have had to be sought for any other agreements.If you ask me if this was brought to my attention as chairman, then the answer is no."

Mr Ward said: "There is no agreement between Burke Ford Reed or any other service provider or myself involving payment or remuneration of any sort other than those disclosed in our Register of Interests. I recorded that Harley Temple, now Burke Ford Reed, act as my investment advisers."

However, in the June 1995 letter headed "Burke Ford Reed Insurance Management Limited - Consultancy Agreement" the managing director of that company wrote to Mr Ward: "Just a brief note to confirm that the consultancy agreement has now been finalised and I am expecting to receive this within the course of the next few days. Once I am in receipt of the document I will forward it to you for your agreement and signature.

"In the meanwhile I have now received confirmation from your accountants that the standing order should be made payable to Roger Ward Associates and paid directly to your Midland Bank account in Hampstead High Street. I have given instructions to my accounts department for them to proceed with the establishment of the standing order, which will be for the sum of #163;650 per month effective 1st April, 1995."

This week, however, Mr Ward denied that any consultancy agreement had ever existed between himself and Burke Ford Reed. He said his financial advisers had been a company called Harley Temple, which was subsequently taken over by Burke Ford Reed. Harley Temple had taken too much in commissions on a number of his personal policies.

"To their credit, Burke Ford Reed worked out what I was owed and said they would rebate it," said Mr Ward. "They offered to do it and I was grateful. There were about six payments in all. I am most anxious to be completely open." He said he did not know why the money was paid in monthly instalments.

In September 1995 Mr Ward met representatives from Burke Ford Healthcare, one of the group's companies, in which a proposal for a corporate health plan for colleges was discussed. As a result of the meeting a disk containing the CEF mailing list was passed over.

Handing over the mailing list, according to Keith Scribbins, would raise problems under the Data Protection Act and prior agreement would have been necessary from the colleges.

"I do not recall any agreement by the board, relating either to that company, or in general, to pass over information. I have now checked the minutes and there is no reference to that company between August and October 1995," he said.

The revelations come as new evidence emerges of the close links between Mr Ward and ELS, the Education Lecturing Services agency. A TES investigation shows that Mr Ward was involved from the beginning. He has consistently promoted ELS, sought endorsement from an education minister, and proposed expansion of the service into higher education.

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