Cost controls under attack;FE Focus

16th April 1999 at 01:00
A NATIONAL Audit Office survey of college governance and expenditure controls has revealed worrying disparities in the supervisory arrangements of some colleges, writes Harvey McGavin.

The survey, contained in an annex to the NAO report into allegations of financial irregularities at Halton College, Cheshire, published this week, throws doubt on the ability of the sector to police its own staff and avoid misuse of public funds.

It found that 61 per cent of the 113 colleges surveyed did not specify who should authorise travelling arrangements for the principal. Six per cent of principals sign their own travel expenses and only 16 per cent of those colleges reporting foreign travel gave written reports to governors on their outcome. Ninety eight per cent had, or were developing, written codes of conduct for governors, but 39 per cent had no such code - and no plans to develop one - for senior staff. Ninety-seven per cent of colleges had a register of governors' interests but only 69 per cent of them said it was open to the public.

In two-thirds of colleges, the clerk to governors was either the deputy principal or director of finance which, the NAO says, "may compromise the clerk's independence". Only 36 per cent had a written whistleblowing policy although 57 per cent said they were developing one.

Halton report, page 31

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