Ward failed to declare personal interests

5th December 1997 at 00:00
The Colleges Employers Forum did not get its chief executive's register of interests at the time indicated by the AOC. Ngaio Crequer reports.

No register of personal interests existed six months after Association of Colleges Chief Executive Roger Ward claims to have logged involvements with outside firms, The TES has learned.

A register released by Mr Ward last week apparently showed that he declared a series of personal interests to the Colleges Employers Forum, the AOC's predecessor in October 1995.

But The TES has learned the CEF had no such record a full six months after the dates on the register released by the AOC.

In December 1995 a register of interests for the CEF board was the subject of "ongoing discussion" with Eversheds, its legal advisers. Yet last week Mr Ward produced a register of interests with the first entry relating to him in October of that year.

As reported in The TES last week, Mr Ward did not declare any links with financial advisers Burke Ford Reed until five months after the firm agreed to pay him Pounds 650 a month under a consultancy agreement.

Last week, he was quizzed by MPs on the Education and Employment Select Committee. When they asked for a copy of the register of interests, he said: "Consider it done."

In a "Register of CEF Senior Staff Members' Interests" provided by Mr Ward and published in last week's TES, there are five entries under his name. They are all dated October 1995 as being when the interest was disclosed. The last entry declared Burke Ford Reed, formerly Harley Temple, as his personal financial advisers.

The TES has revealed that in June 1995, there was a consultancy agreement between Burke Ford Reed and Mr Ward, in which Mr Ward was paid Pounds 650 a month. Mr Ward denies the existence of a consultancy agreement.

Mr Ward also supplied a "Register of AOC Board and Senior Staff Members' Interests". The first entry is for October 1995. The entries include the same interests registered in the CEF document, and some additional ones, such as speaking at a conference organised by Education Lecturing Services in the United States, when he records that his expenses were met by Education Lecturing Services.

The need for a Register of Interests for the Board of the Colleges Employers Forum arose because of confusion over whether members could receive fees for speaking at outside events.

A number of members had spoken at Network Training Events, for example. Should this be considered a normal extension of board work, and therefore not be paid, or should a fee be payable, especially if the event was profit-making?

At the very least the board should have its own code of conduct and a register of interests, and this was agreed in September 1995. In October the board was told that the proposed code of of conduct and the register of interests had been remitted to the chief executive, Roger Ward, who would report back. It was also agreed that board members who chaired or made a contribution to an outside event could receive a fee if they had been charged an economic fee.

By December the code and the register were the subject of "ongoing discussion" with Eversheds, the CEF's lawyers. In February 1996 it was suggested that a code of conduct which had been drawn up and recommended for use by the colleges, could be the basis for a code of conduct for the board. But there was no mention of the register of interests.

In March the board was told that a code of conduct was in the process of being drawn up. There would be consultation with the CEF's legal advisers and then it would be presented to the board. It duly went to the board and was adopted in April 1996. Again, there was no mention of a register of interests.

Mr Ward promised to hand the registers of interest simultaneously to The TES and the House of Commons select committee. But the register he provided last week referred only to his personal interests, not those of the board and other senior staff.

The AOC's model code of conduct for all board members published in March 1996 says:"The Clerk will maintain a register of members' interests which will be open for public scrutiny." But The TES had not received the full record before going to press.

The board is understood to be critical of Mr Ward's decision to send his details to The TES last week without their approval.

Roger Ward was unwilling to comment.

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