Auditor general investigates Kwantlen university executive pay

An audit of Kwantlen Polytechnic will look into whether executives were secretly overpaid.

B.C.’s auditor general has agreed to look into executive compensation at Kwantlen Polytechnic University. 

Since early March, the NDP has been raising concerns in the legislature about how the university paid its executives – and reported those payments – while Advanced Education Minister Amrik Virk was vice-chairman of its board of governors. 

Advanced education critic David Eby has tabled documents suggesting Kwantlen skirted strict provincial laws that limit salaries for university executives. 

Auditor General Russ Jones wrote to Eby Tuesday, saying his staff “will be performing some fact-finding work” to determine whether a deeper probe is warranted. 

The Public Sector Employers Council Secretariat requires postsecondary institutions to report executive salaries, and forbids them from exceeding limits or making confidential side arrangements. 

On March 5, Eby questioned Virk about $100,000 in payments to Kwantlen administrators that were recorded in financial reports not as salary, but “as payments to suppliers of goods and services.” 

Eight days later, in a wrongful dismissal lawsuit against Kwantlen, former employee Laura Legg alleged in court documents that the university deliberately reclassified salary increases “to avoid detection.” 

Those allegations have not been proven in court. 

On March 27, The Province published excerpts from emails in which Kwantlen’s vice-president of finance, Gordon Lee, and board chairman Gordon Schoberg discussed topping up their new president’s salary with $100,000 from the university’s foundation, which typically funds awards, bursaries and scholarships for students. 

They appear to have later abandoned this idea. 

Virk was vice-chairman of Kwantlen’s board and chairman of its human resources committee when the activities allegedly took place. 

Finance Minister Mike de Jong ordered a government review in March, but the NDP insisted the matter be passed to the independent A-G. 

– From the Vancouver Province

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