College chief 'misled' MPs

12th December 1997 at 00:00
College employers' chief Roger Ward is threatened with disciplinary action by his board of directors after being accused of misleading the House of Commons education and employment select committee.

The committee is to call him in for questioning and, if they conclude that he lied to the committee, he could also face prosecution.

Mr Ward, chief executive of the Association of Colleges, told the committee last month that an AOC register of interests existed for all senior staff and was open to public scrutiny.

He made the claim during inquiries by Margaret Hodge MP, the committee chair, and Don Foster, the Lib Dems Education chair, following revelations in The TES that Mr Ward had received Pounds 650 a month from a consultancy agreement with a corporate health care company Burke Ford Reed.

But his three most senior staff were alarmed and told AOC chair Howard Phelps that no such register existed and that they believed the committee was "misled".

In fact, the AOC board did not formally adopt its register until November 12, five days after the first revelations in The TES. Throughout the period Mr Ward repeatedly asserted in interviews that the register for all senior staff existed and would be made public.

Ms Hodge told The TES: "This is an extremely serious matter on the face of it. The committee will now recall Roger Ward and the chair of the AOC."

Mr Ward has made efforts to "correct" the transcript of the AOC evidence for the final report.

He is understood to have claimed that he had intended to say that it was his own register - written personally in his capacity as chief executive of the AOC's predecessor, the Colleges Employers Forum - and not that of all senior staff.

There is scope for minor corrections to the record if there has been a genuine slip. But Mr Phelps is understood to be deeply concerned.

Sources close to the AOC told The TES he saw it as an "extremely serious issue for the organisation" and was concerned that the name of the AOCshould not be blighted by any subsequent findings.

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