On October 23, 2023, The Office of the Auditor General Newfoundland and Labrador released their report on Memorial University. The report confirmed what I’ve warned folks about for years regarding the massive amounts of administrative bloat. It shows that my protest against former president Vianne Timmons on December 2, 2021, was justified. Below are 20 findings from the Auditor General’s report that I wish to highlight:
1. In 2019, Memorial hosted a number of activities from July to December to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Harlow Campus, costing more than $127,000.
2. In October 2022, an Employee Service Award Dinner for employees and their guests was held at a cost of $6,936, including alcohol.
3. In November 2022, Memorial hosted a three-day Arctic Forum for 40 attendees at a net cost of $65,709.
4. Special hosting allowance expenses for deans and directors, such as retirement functions, Christmas parties, or dinners attended solely by Memorial staff, totalled $49,239 from April 1, 2019, to December 31, 2022.
5. The former President and Vice-Chancellor organized a meeting with the vice-presidents at Signal Hill campus followed by a dinner for 10 people at their home. The cost for the event was $1,452, including alcohol – significantly more than the allowable $250 limit.
6. Memorial used search firms to recruit 15 management and executive positions at a total cost of $1.1 million. We also found that five of the 15 staff (33%) recruited through this method are no longer employed by the University.
7. We noted a total cost of $65,000 in fees paid for a consultant that did not submit a final report, as required in their contract. This individual was a member of the Harlow Board of Directors when hired as a consultant. University officials confirmed that no disclosure was made to the Conflict of Interest Committee about this consultant/board member.
8. Memorial does not have a policy to guide donations and sponsorships. However, we found that the University executive contributed more than $140,000 in donations and sponsorships to outside organizations during our audit scope period.
9. We found one sample of $1,792 for custom-made chocolates purchased in December 2020 by the President’s Office and used as gifts.
10. We found that $2,700 of $16,828 (16%) for new furniture was for a desk and chair for the former President and Vice-Chancellor’s home.
11. In July and August of 2020, the former President incurred $9,880 for a province-wide 24-day tour to visit various University facilities and personnel by car. Costs reimbursed for this travel included $652 for car maintenance items, specifically car tire replacement and an oil change, even though the former President received a monthly car allowance of $1,000 which included car maintenance. Memorial’s travel policy does not allow for the reimbursement of maintenance costs.
12. We found one trip in August 2021, in which the former President paid $598 for a limousine service, stating there was no car rental available.
13. The former President was a member of 15 boards, of which 11 were at the discretion of that President, and the former President did not take personal leave to attend six of these board meetings.
14. We found that $2 million was paid for a license fee for a management software package was not being used appropriately. A September 2021 internal audit concluded the software was inefficient and underutilized and recommended it be renewed for one year for evaluation. However, Memorial renewed the software in December 2021 for an additional five years at a cost of $377,356 per year.
15. The Provost and Vice-President (Academic) had a top-of-scale salary of $325,000 – almost two times that of a comparable deputy minister. Six University executive positions in our sample had top-of-scale salaries of $290,019 and were paid approximately two-times that of a comparable assistant deputy minister position in government.
16. We found that in November 2021, the former President travelled to Toronto and Montreal for VIA Rail board meetings and various meetings with alumni, donors and other organizations that cost the University $1,782.
17. In April 2022, $3,428 was spent for the former President to travel to Regina to attend an event at the University of Regina. The former President did not take personal leave to attend.
18. We found that business class tickets were purchased in two of our 23 travel samples (nine per cent), despite the travel policy stipulating that all air travel be made at the lowest obtainable cost and should not exceed full economy fare. We also found that, for one of these business class trips for an executive member’s trip to the Harlow campus Soth-anniversary celebrations, they claimed $801 for one night’s accommodations while the other accommodations had cost $169 per night.
19. Memorial paid significantly higher total compensation as compared to government for 97% (35 of 36) of the executive and management positions examined.
20. Three of five hosting samples (60%) did not abide by policy.
Matt Barter is a fourth-year student in the Humanities and Social Sciences Faculty at Memorial University of Newfoundland, majoring in Political Science with a minor in Sociology. He enjoys reading thought-provoking articles, walks in nature, and volunteering in the community.