U of R overtime pay scandal

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The university has been plagued with scandals this year/ image: Arthur Ward

The university has been plagued with scandals this year/ image: Arthur Ward

Two non-academic employees paid nearly $380,00 for unearned time

Article: Rikkeal Bohmann – News Editor

It was uncovered by the CBC iTeam Investigation that two non-academic University of Regina employees from the Faculty of Education were receiving unearned overtime totaling over $100,000. It has since came out recently, though, that the total comes to nearly $380,000.

The employees, two IT staff members, were receiving the overtime payments for over 11 years. One staff member received $186,745.30 and the other received $191,067.33. The extra time at work was never put in, though.

James McNinch, the Dean of the Faculty of Education, in an interview with the CBC, said these payments were “standard practice” at the U of R. In the same interview, McNinch had said he knew and approved of the payments. The overtime was only initially approved for one year.

The President’s Office of the U of R had issued a statement on the matter, released Sep. 17. It states that the President’s Office became aware of the unearned payments about a year ago in September of 2012.

They noted that the payments dated back to 2001 and explained, “when the situation in the Faculty was reported to the President’s Office, the overtime payments were immediately stopped. At the same time, deans, associate vice-presidents, and directors across the University were instructed to review all overtime records and claims in their Faculties and administrative units, and to report any problems or anomalies to their vice-president. The following month, in October 2012, a review was undertaken of all overtime paid out over the previous 5 years. No further anomalies came to light.”

The statement made a note to say that administrators in each faculty are responsible for making sure that overtime claims are reviewed before processing.

Since the statement has been released, the university has said that the original payments were authorized by the then-Dean of Education, whose term was done in 2006.

Advanced Education Minister Rob Norris expressed his appreciation for action to have been taken, but brings up the issue of accountability due to nothing being detected for so long. The university administration, even though knowing of the scandal for a year, did not tell the Saskatchewan Government or the Provincial Auditor until the news broke into the media.

The government has since released a letter dated Sep. 17 that was sent to the U of R Board of Governors’ Chair, Lee Elliot. The letter asks for 11 questions to be answered in 10 days. Questions include, “has the money been recovered, or are there any plans for the recovery of these funds?” and “on what authority was the original agreement extended an additional decade?”

Education students are disappointed at the negative news surrounding their Faculty.

“I find it preposterous that our tuition money continues to get embezzled by the very staff we trust to provide us with a functioning educational institution. We want more students to attend the U of R, but who would want to with a reputation like this? We have a great school, yet we are getting a bad name because certain people think they can get away with things like this,” says Bryan Wilson, a third year education student.

McNinch’s extension contract has been denied now and the university will be looking for a new Dean of Education. He had not returned the Carillon’s request for a comment before publication.

It has also been revealed by the university that the overtime payments began as a way to keep the IT staff members at the university by the then-dean. As well that the university will not be getting the payments back.

“The legal advice we received held that the prospect of successful recovery of these funds was remote as it had been authorized in writing by the then-dean of education,” Vianne Timmons had said.

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