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‘Troubling’ disclosure failures at Kwantlen university: de Jong

Kwantlen Polytechnic University broke government rules for reporting executive salaries at a time when Advanced Education Minister Amrik Virk sat on its board of governors, a review has found.
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Finance Minister Mike de Jong called the behaviour of Amrik Virk, now the minister of advanced education, “unacceptable.”

Kwantlen Polytechnic University broke government rules for reporting executive salaries at a time when Advanced Education Minister Amrik Virk sat on its board of governors, a review has found.

The university failed to disclose two pre-employment contracts each worth $50,000 as part of the executives’ total compensation, the review says.

Instead, the contracts were reported as payments to suppliers in a separate filing.

The NDP alleges this was done to top up the executives’ salaries and get around provincial salary caps.

The internal review by assistant deputy finance minister Rob Mingay concludes that the Metro Vancouver university violated reporting rules of the Public Sector Employers’ Council.

“In my opinion, more detailed disclosure under the guidelines was required,” Mingay said.

He also concluded that Virk, then the board of governors’ vice-chairman, and others were aware of one of the pre-employment contracts to current president Alan Davis, but not the other to former vice-president and provost Anne Lavack.

Virk confirmed in an interview Tuesday that he knew about the pre-employment contract to Davis and also knew that it was not reported as part of the president’s total compensation.

“Now I know that it ought to have been reported … to PSEC [Public Sector Employers’ Council] specifically and directly,” he said.

Finance Minister Mike de Jong called the report “troubling” and Virk’s behaviour “unacceptable,” but he stopped short of imposing penalties on anyone involved.

Instead, the government’s response will be limited to fine-tuning reporting rules and offering a remedial “Disclosure 101” course for officials at post-secondary schools, he said.

“Based on my conversation with [Virk], I’m satisfied that he fully appreciates the nature of the problem that occurred,” de Jong said.

The Opposition, however, called for Premier Christy Clark to remove Virk from cabinet in light of the report’s findings and his previous denials of wrongdoing.

“I think it’s an indictment of the premier’s judgment that the minister maintains his position after this report has come out,” said NDP advanced education critic David Eby, whose questions in the legislature prompted the government review.

Eby noted that Virk, a former RCMP officer, characterized the NDP’s questions as “outlandish” and a “fishing expedition” despite his own role in the affair.

“That kind of misrepresentation both to the public and to the legislature is completely unprofessional and disturbing,” Eby said.

Virk offered no apologies Tuesday and sidestepped questions about whether he should remain in cabinet. He said he felt “humbled” and “let down” that he didn’t seek more information on proper reporting requirements.

“For me, I’m my own worst critic,” he said. “I look at it and say, ‘You know, I should have done better. I could have done better. And with the benefit of hindsight, I would have done better.’ ”

Mingay found that certain Kwantlen board members and administrators were looking for ways to supplement the president’s salary in order to attract the best candidates for the job.

For instance, they considered padding the president’s salary with $100,000 from the university’s foundation and leasing a vehicle for Davis, although neither idea was pursued, the review says.

“I understand that the folks that populate boards want to do the best they can and attract the best folks possible,” de Jong said. “But that’s not an excuse for failing to comply or circumventing the reporting requirements that exist.”

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