Aberdeen University has paid back £119,000 to a public body after the conclusion of a review into payments made to former principal
Professor Sir Ian Diamond announced in August 2017 he planned to retire, but only triggered the notice period in July 2018 – the same month he officially stepped down from the role.
That posed questions about whether he was entitled to receive money the university paid to him – and whether the university carried out the checks it should have in ensuring the right amount of money was paid.
Now, the Scottish Funding Council (SFC), which carried out a review in relation to his departure from the university in 2018, has said the university must pay back a £119,000 grant to the SFC in respect of a payment given to Sir Ian.
The university said it has already repaid the money.
In a new letter, the SFC said its review concluded the university approved a settlement agreement with Sir Ian without assessing if there could have been better-value options.
It added that the university’s remuneration committee had “flaws” in its conduct because it approved terms of the settlement agreement without ensuring Court – the university’s funding body – received sufficient information so that it could be assured of due process.
The SFC also concluded that, while the settlement agreement was properly disclosed in the university’s accounts “an additional payment of £60,000 for ‘outplacement support’ should also have been disclosed.”
The SFC has now said it requires £119,000 to be repaid and for the university to undertake an externally facilitated review of its governance procedures and culture.
Esther Roberton, who was elected in 2019 to the role of senior governor of the University of Aberdeen, said: “The university has cooperated fully with this review, welcomes publication of the report, accepts its main findings and has already repaid the £119,000 to the Scottish Funding Council.
“Court – the university’s governing body – will reflect closely on the SFC’s suggestion that the university may wish to consider repaying additional monies or donating to a university learning-related activity, once it has had the opportunity to fully consider the report’s findings and their implications.
“Last year the university appointed an interim university secretary to undertake an internal review of our governance, support the university in responding to the SFC review, and in implementing any recommendations from the report.
“This work will now be overseen by an external facilitator in line with the recommendations of the SFC report.
“In addition, a small internal group is being created – comprising recently appointed Court members and a staff representative – to review the specific issues raised by the report.
“Findings will go to the meeting of the University’s Court in June.
“The SFC review reports on decisions made three years ago and, while we acknowledge the report findings, the university has moved on under the leadership of the new principal, the new senior vice-principal, and myself as senior governor, just elected last year.
“We will address the issues raised in the report and take lessons from it.
“This should ensure we move forward with confidence to deliver our newly launched 20-year strategy for the benefit of Aberdeen, the north-east and beyond.”