DAG based their conclusion on conversations with RUG employees, public documents, and files they had requested through the Government Information (Public Access) Act (Wob). On Friday, they published the results of nearly a year of investigation.
The Yantai start-up costs had been budgeted at a million, but had blown up to become almost three times that. To cover this, DAG says the university came up with a financial construction where they used what were originally public funds to finance the Chinese endeavour.
Moving money around
In their investigation, DAG claims the RUG moved money around, turning public funds into private funds, thereby bypassing Bussemaker’s ban. ‘The RUG increased their private funds by “reclassifying’ 450,000 euros in public reserves as private reserves”’, DAG chairman Jasper Been says.
The RUG also downplayed other expenses by fudging the Yantai time sheets (and therefore the number of hours that employees worked on the Chinese project). ‘DAG managed to uncover 98 cases of employees having been allocated insufficient hours or no hours at all for their work on the plans for the Chinese campus’, the investigation reports reads.
The university council had previously inquired into the time sheets. They suspected staff may have been pressured not to claim expenses for hours they had worked preparing for Yantai.
The RUG staunchly denied this at the time. ‘There is no reason to think that the registration is suspect’, a spokesperson said. The schools inspectorate has checked our bookkeeping and said they found no deficiencies.’
But DAG claims otherwise. According to their investigation, the schools inspectorate is extremely critical of the state of affairs. The inspectorate accountant didn’t check whether the ‘reclassification’ was legally sound because the amounts were below the tolerance limit that would require a second look, according to DAG student Jasper Been.
The university denies they used tax funds to finance Yantai. Just like any other university, the RUG has private income, says the university board. ‘The RUG has always acted within the confines of the applicable directives.’ The board of directors says the schools inspectorate checked the RUG’s accounts for Yantai and agreed with them.
The RUG spent years preparing for a branch campus in Yantai, which would provide 10,000 Chinese students with a Dutch university education. People at the university have criticised the plan from its inception. In February of this year, the university council voted against the Yantai project, causing the board of directors to withdraw the plan.
There were then plans to explore a different type of collaboration among faculties. The status of these plans is currently unknown.