Out of respect to their privacy, the university is declining to reveal the names of those involved. The employees in question have until Friday to appeal the decision. According to sources from the department at the centre of the investigation, Hans G., his secretary and manager are among those who were let go. The RUG is also parting ways with a staffer from the telecommunications department.
The RUG has filed a police report against the personnel and businesses who have inflicted financial damage on the university. In addition to the four fired staff members, one employee has been placed on probation and another will have their wages permanently garnished.
An internal investigation being conducted by Bureau Hoffmann at the university following the arrest of chief maintenance officer Hans G. in January by the Fiscal Information and Intelligence Service (FIOD) was the reason behind the firings. He is suspected of taking in tens of thousands of euros each year from a number of contractors in exchange for jobs at the university.
According to the Public Prosecutor (OM), the maintenance officer asked installation and construction companies to grant him favours or to funnel money to him outside of official channels. In doing so, he was able to get his son and daughter-in-law on the payroll of an installation company and have the university pay their wages under false pretences.
The intelligence service caught on to Hans G.’s activities after one of the companies that did jobs for the university went bankrupt.
The Board of Directors of the university say that the fact that FIOD brought the fraud case to their attention rather than discovering it on their own is not surprising. The RUG has been unable to find any indication of fraud in their own administration. The people who assigned the jobs were also the ones who were responsible for carrying out checks on them. As such, there were no clear signs that anything was amiss with the assignments or the invoices.
‘You only recognise it in hindsight,’ RUG president Sibrand Poppema says. ‘If people inside and outside of the university are colluding, it is very difficult to see.’ The Board of Directors is dismayed that no one from the department in question came forward to the confidential advisor about the situation. ‘People are very wary about making complaints against their own bosses. That is an aspect of the business culture that must be addressed’, Poppema says.
The internal investigation at the university will not look back beyond 2008, even though G. worked for the university for more than 30 years. ‘There is the possibility that the fraud was occurring prior to that, but according to FIOD and our own investigation, we have not found any indications to suggest it would be necessary to look further into the past’, says RUG vice president Jan de Jeu.
According to De Jeu, it remains unclear exactly how much the internal investigation has cost the university. ‘We will recover the damages and the costs from the accused individuals’, the board member says. The university also does not yet know precisely how much financial damage was done and is basing its estimates on the FIOD investigation. According to the intelligence service, that amount is 1,141,661 euros.
The Hans G. case will likely be handled more substantively in the autumn. Whether other employees will also appear in court remains to be seen.
The employees in the divisions at the centre of the investigation within the service department were informed of the firings on Tuesday afternoon. De Jeu reports that they are relieved that the Hoffmann investigation is over with. ‘Everyone was wondering if there was still more to come or if any other indications of problems would be found. We have told them that we can now close this chapter and begin with the implementation of several new measures.’
The university plans to launch an integrity programme in response to the fraud, and strengthening the monitoring process will also be worked on. From now on, there will be regular checks to see if work that is being billed for is actually being completed.