University whistleblower claims she was sidelined from job

September 27, 2010 | by | 0 Comments

A university whistleblower claims she has been ‘sidelined’ from her job – after alleging faculty budgets were being blown on overseas travel and consultancy fees.

Janet Merrigan, business development manager at the University of Gloucestershire, says she was given an ‘ultimatum’ to move departments following disclosures about the facility’s funds.

She had flagged up concerns about excessive staff pay, overseas travel and consultancy fees at the university in a series of emails and conversations with bosses.

After the disclosures came to light, she claims files were removed from her computer, she was excluded from meetings and sidelined in her role.

The university disputes any evidence of unlawful practice.

An Employment Tribunal in Bristol heard how the allegations into financial matters at the university’s Francis Hall Campus, based in Cheltenham, first emerged in June 2009.

Mrs Merrigan accused the university’s education department of exerting ‘poor financial control’ after being instructed to review its funds.

In a series of emails and phone conversations she claimed full-time staff were receiving extra wages to attend the university’s London campus.

The business manager also said some university partners were being paid up to £60,000-a-year for training that held little benefit to the university.

In one instance she queried why cash was being paid to a ministerial training firm, partnered with the Church Of England.

Janet Merrigan told the tribunal: ”We were in serious financial difficulty, but here we were paying money for this training to go on and were not recovering the costs.

”The partnership was loss making and needed to be revised – it was public money.”

She also claimed consultants were also pocketing up to £1,000-a-month from the university, with no visible results.

Janet Merrigan also added that staff had inaccurately reported the university’s income forecast for 2010 – masking a £3million deficit.

She also raised concerns about ‘excessive’ faculty costs for overseas travel.

After letting bosses know of her concerns, she claims files were deleted from her computer in November 2009 and she was excluded from meetings.

She was then offered a position in the university’s marketing department – where she had no experience.

She filed a whistleblower complaint against the university in January this year, but it was dismissed.

Christopher Howells, acting for the University of Gloucestershire, claimed Mrs Merrigan’s concerns were not of legal irregularities, but more about financial overspending.

He said they therefore did not count as protected disclosures against her employer.

The University of Gloucestershire is based over four campuses in Cheltenham and Gloucester.

It teaches almost 9,000 further and higher education students.

The case continues.

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