Employees funnelled 1.2 million euros
Another fraud case at the RUG
By establishing the NOHA Groningen foundation, the RUG says the trio ‘created a means to acquire subsidies and public funds outside of the RUG’. NOHA stands for Network on Humanitarian Action, an international master programme for students who want to help out in crisis regions.
Using RUG stationery and stamps, the trio set up contracts with external partners, using the foundations bank account number, the university reported on Monday evening.
This allowed one of the employees to declare large numbers of expenses and pay himself, other staff members, and external partners without any oversight, an investigation the RUG commissioned last year found.
The university says the ‘concluded facts are serious’ and has made a police report of fraud and falsification of documents. The foundation’s bank account has also been seized. The RUG has also started a civil procedure against the NOHA Groningen foundation and one of the employees involved.
After a European partner tipped them off, the RUG started questioning how the NOHA programme was being financed. They suspected that public funds (subsidies and tuition fees paid by students) that were meant for the RUG didn’t actually end up with the university directly, but rather at the foundation.
It turned out that the foundation was set up by the three arts employees without the university knowing about it. The NOHA Groningen foundation has the same business address as the faculty. The employees involved had been (partially) relieved of their jobs pending the investigation.
RUG president Jouke de Vries is shocked by the investigation’s findings. ‘They broke the trust of the students, the partner universities, and the European Committee with their actions’, says De Vries.
He points out that the RUG has ‘dealt with incidents like these before’. ‘We’ll use that case history to make it clear at the university that we don’t want this. We have clear rules on integrity, and it’s important that the staff stick to those.’
Three years ago, a large fraud case rocked the RUG; the then manager of the RUG’s technical department turned out to have stolen 1.1 million euros from the university. The manager received a three-year sentence, with six months’ probation.