Ward rebuffs MPs over fees and mailing lists

28th November 1997 at 00:00
Roger Ward, chief executive of the Association of Colleges, denied this week that he had handed over a mailing list of members to a commercial company when he led the Colleges Employers Forum.

Mr Ward was being questioned by MPs on the education and employment select committee.

Earlier this month The TES revealed that Mr Ward supplied a corporate health care company, Burke Ford Reed, with a list of colleges who belonged to the CEF in 1995. The TES also reported that Mr Ward received #163;650 a month from his consultancy agreement with Burke Ford Reed.

Don Foster, the Lib Dems education spokesman, said: "It is alleged that you have handed, or someone handed over a mailing list to a commercial company. Could you confirm whether that did take place?"

Mr Ward replied: "I can confirm that it did not take place."

Mr Foster pressed: "So no information about lists of data was passed to any commercial company at any time?"

Mr Ward continued: "Other than we share a written database with a number of people who share the interests of the FE sector. "

He said he was aware of the Data Protection Act. When asked, he said the above definition would not include Education Lecturing Services, the staffing agency that Mr Ward had told The TES he had gone out of his way to promote.

He told the committee: "Whenever we have been approached by reputable companies who have a major product or services which we think will improve the efficiency of colleges, we would be happy to distribute materials if we think, on balance, it would be helpful."

Mr Foster asked if handing out information was written into a code of conduct. Mr Ward said: "Not specifically. We have written to all colleges saying the practice we have embarked on in the past is that we have sent you material from suppliers that would be genuinely beneficial. Do you wish to receive this material or not? "

Mr Foster asked if the code of conduct would allow a senior official to engage in contracts for a consultancy agreement. Mr Ward said the code made no reference to this, but he assumed that an official would check this was consistent with his employment contract, and it would be entered into the AOC's register of interests.

Margaret Hodge, MP, the committee chair, asked: "So the allegation that you were paid a consultancy is wrong." Mr Ward said it was wrong.

Mr Foster asked if Mr Ward had sought an apology for allegations made in The TES. Mr Ward said: "No, we have not sought an apology." His board had instituted an independent inquiry, which was being carried out by solicitors, McKeag amp; Co.

Mr Ward said the AOC's register of interests was open to any member for inspection. He agreed to provide it for inspection by the committee.

Hilary Cowell, a member of the AOC board, told MPs that McKeag amp; Co had been chosen because they had no connections whatsoever with FE, the colleges, or the funding council. "Within the time scale we were relatively certain there was no connection."

Mr Ward confirmed that he had had no communication with the firm or its consultants.

Mr Foster asked if the publicity had meant the sector had suffered as a result. Mr Ward said he did "not enjoy personal attention being paid to me" when the needs of the sector were so great.

Earlier Mr Ward said there would need to be collaboration between regional and sub-regional bodies to determine post-16 provision. But didn't that mean that colleges would lose some of their autonomy, MPs asked. "Yes, we would wish to share in the determination of provision with others," said Mr Ward. Some colleges would have to make sacrifices.

He was asked if the AOC would resist college mergers. Mr Ward said where they were voluntary, they would be welcome but they would have to be "bottom up" and not imposed.

Logged on the register

Register of CEF senior staff members' interests, as disclosed by the Association of Colleges

Entries relating to Roger Ward, then CEF chief executive:

* director of CEF Recruitment Ltd (wholly-owned subsidiary of CEF). Disclosed October 1995;

* director of CEF Consultancy Services Ltd (wholly-owned subsidiary of CEF). Disclosed October 1995;

* Fellow of Institute of Personnel Development. Disclosed Oct 1995.

* Fellow of Royal Society of Arts. Disclosed October 1995;

* Burke Ford Reed, formerly Harley Temple, responsible for management of personal finances (HT supplier of services to sector recommended by CEF). Disclosed October 1995.

Register of Association of Colleges Board and senior staff members' interests, as disclosed by the AOC.

Entries relating to Roger Ward, AOC chief executive:

* director of CEF Recruitment Ltd (wholly owned subsidiary of CEF). Name changed to AOC Management Services Ltd. Disclosed October 1995, changed November 12, 1996;

* director of CEF Consultancy Services Ltd (wholly-owned subsidiary of AOC). Disclosed October 1995;

* Fellow of Institute of Personnel Developmen t. Disclosed October 1995;

* Fellow of Royal Society of Arts. Disclosed October 1995;

* Burke Ford Reed (formerly Harley Temple) responsible for management of personal finances (supplier of services to sector recommended by AOC). Disclosed October 1995;

* spoke at ELS International conference in USA. Expenses in doing so met by ELS (ELS supplier of services to the sector recommended by AOC). Disclosed November 8-11, 1996;

* invited to a day at Goodwood races by Norton Rose M5 Group (AOC employment law advisers). Disclosed May 22, 1997;

* attended Royal Academy Summer Exhibition as guest of Eversheds (AOC legal advisers). July 8, 1997.

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