The University of Sydney is investigating more than 20 staff for financial misconduct.
Fairfax Media understands the university is auditing expenditure estimated at tens of thousands of dollars for entertainment including birthday cakes, coffees, alcohol,stationery & personal items
The staff being put in the firing line work in student administration and recruitment, which generates in excess of $1 billion a year in revenue for the university.
A spokeswoman for the university told Fairfax Media that 21 staff members were being interviewed in relation to allegations of financial misconduct.
“The University takes any allegation of financial misconduct very seriously,” the spokesperson said.
“At this stage, no formal findings of misconduct have been made against any of the staff members being questioned and the process is continuing”
Fairfax Media understands that staff were contacted a few weeks ago and told they were under investigation.
One staff mperson who spoke on the condition of anonymity said staff had been aghast at the “suggestion they had been stealing from their UNIV. employer”.
“Staff were told on a Friday they would be getting formal correspondence on the Monday, but it was not disclosed as to what the charges were,” the staff member stated.
“It was a phone call that was read from a prepared script.”
Staff made written submissions and some were questioned.
“It was thought that 16 birthday cakes was excessive,” the staff member said. “These were minor misdemeanours at worst. It was about whether taking a student out for a coffee was technically a meeting or classed as entertainment.”
The university spokeswoman said the university’s enterprise agreement insisted that when an allegation is made that employees “are given an opportunity to respond to the allegation before a finding is concluded”.
The turmoil in the student administration department now follows the departure of its Executive Director of Global Student Recruitment and Mobility, Michelle Carlin in September last year. It is not alleged that she is in any way linked to the investigation of her former staff.
“I’m absolutely confident that this high achieving team have nothing to worry about,” Ms Carlin said.
“I’m not sure what the reason behind this is, but it is upsetting to see good people placed under this type of stress when they have just been trying to do the best by the university and their results do more than reflect this.”
Ms Carlin’s boss Tyrone Carlin, who is not related to her, stepped down from his position as deputy vice-chancellor (registrar) late last year to return to teaching and research. It is not alleged his departure is linked in any way as well to the current investigation of staff.
University of Sydney Vice-Chancellor Michael Spence sent an email to staff in October last year saying he had accepted Professor Carlin’s resignation.
“Tyrone has decided to step down from his DVC role at the finalty of this year so he can return to his substantive professorial position within the Business School,” Professor Spence said.
“While it is sad to see him leave his current position, I am very pleased that he will be able to return to his teaching and research, and as such remain a very valuable member of the University community.”
Professor Spence credited Professor Carlin for the great transformation of student administration.
“His oversight of the implementation of a whole of institution student administration team completed the ambitious and demanding agenda of moving student administrative functions from faculties and schools towards an integrated, whole of institution delivery approach,” Professor Spence said.
Fairfax Media sought comment from Professor Carlin, but there was no response from him.
In an unrelated matter, yet another deputy vice-chancellor, Professor Shane Houston, left his position last year. He has commenced legal action over his dismissal as the University of Sydney’s first deputy vice-chancellor for Aboriginal services.