DCSIMG

Leeds Met exclusive: Fijian had started work when agreement drawn up

A PAY agreement with a former world rugby star to recruit players for Leeds Metropolitan University's rugby team was only drawn up after he had already begun lucrative work for the university.

Leeds Met in crisis: Full report

Not only was the memorandum of understanding (MOU) governing payments to Fijian Waisale Serevi undated, it also stated that he "has completed eight days' consultancy activity due to be paid" – at a rate of 1,000 per day.

The agreement was found by internal auditors KPMG when they looked into a series of cash withdrawals made on staff credit cards which had been queried by the Yorkshire Post.

They found two withdrawals of 500 made last year, in August and October, by former Leeds Met director Joy Kumar, who also comes from Fiji, were for payments to Mr Serevi.

The withdrawals were made and approved in spite of Leeds Met's policy that cash could not be taken out on staff credit cards in Britain.

KPMG did not say whether other payments had been made or whether any students had been recruited.

But Leeds Met last night confirmed Mr Serevi has received 8,000 in total and recruited two players.

Asked whether he was still working for Leeds Met, a spokesman said: "The agreement is not currently active."

The MOU states Mr Serevi, who was not identified by KPMG and only described as a high profile sportsman, "agrees to undertake a minimum of 10 days activity per calendar year on behalf of the university" at 1,000 per day as well as "reasonable travel and accommodation expenses as agreed in advance".

The terms also state that he will be paid "500 per student recruited (and) selected to represent the university in a minimum of 10 university first team fixtures".

But KPMG said: "However, no invoices or statements of account were identified for this transaction, nor could we find any documented evidence that the university business case for the consultancy service had been authorised.

"This transaction is also not in compliance with the university's purchase card policy which states that cash withdrawals within the UK are not permitted.

"The university has been unable to provide evidence of prior approval for the withdrawal or why the supplier was paid in cash.

"In addition, the MOU has not been signed or dated by either party."

KPMG did note that the MOU states the aim is "to promote joint activities in nurturing talent through the university's sporting excellence and expertise in coaching".

KPMG added that this supports the university's vision of "rubbing shoulders with, and learning from, champions".

A Leeds Met spokesman said: "In relation to this particular issue, although there is no suggestion that the individuals involved had anything but the best intentions, to pay 1,000 out of the 8,000 consultancy fee in cash was clearly not compliant with the university's policies and procedures, as the KPMG report makes clear.

"The partnership has delivered some success but this error of judgment was pointed out to those involved and we are satisfied that there will be no repeat."

The spokesman added: "Leeds Metropolitan University accepts fully the findings and recommendations of the KPMG report and has removed the possibility of cash withdrawal via procurement card in the UK."

The auditors also highlighted Ms Kumar, who is not identified by name, had spent nearly 3,000 more than authorised on a trip to Taiwan to "pursue the university partnership with a sports consultancy services provider" who, although also not identified, was Mr Serevi.

A total of 3,457 was claimed for accommodation and travel – excluding flights – in May last year, paid for on a staff credit card.

Approval for the trip had been authorised by former vice chancellor Simon Lee, but not additionally authorised by the Leslie Silver International Faculty, as per university policy.

Total authorised expected costs were 3,500, but it was found Ms Kumar had also obtained approval from Mr Lee for a 2,900 business class flight on the basis that it would enable her to fly back a day early and attend a meeting at Leeds Met.

KPMG did not say how long the trip was, but did state "the additional costs of the flights would have significantly exceeded the authorised budget for the overall trip.

"In addition, there were some receipts missing and it was unclear how the receipts in foreign currency reconciled to the expense claim."

Ms Kumar, who was director of student centred change management, took early retirement in the summer.

WHAT KPMG UNCOVERED

Agreement to pay former rugby star Waisale Serevi 1,000 a day to recruit rugby players for Leeds Metropolitan University was undated and unsigned.

Fijian international has received 8,000 and recruited two players to play for the university.

1,000 was paid in cash withdrawn on a staff credit card by former Leeds Met director Joy Kumar.

Withdrawal of cash was not permitted under university policy on staff credit cards.

Auditors could find no evidence why payment was made in cash.

Auditors found no invoices or evidence a business case for the deal had been authorised.

University says agreement with Serevi now "not active".

 
 
 

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