On 25 January 2016 an employee of the University of Groningen was arrested by FIOD, the investigation office of the Tax and Customs Administration, as the main suspect in an investigation into corruption, money laundering and forgery. The arrest, charges and media attention have had a big impact on the University of Groningen and in particular on the staff from the sections of the University Services Department that were directly involved.
In response to the FIOD investigation, the Board of the University adopted immediate measures to prevent further damage. These included suspending four members of staff and hiring Hoffmann Bedrijfsrecherche to investigate the nature and extent of the damage caused. They also included assigning Deloitte with the task of analysing contract awards and order processing in the same period as the FIOD investigation, 2008–2015.
The University has adopted various measures to restrict access to systems and tighten up administrative processes. It has also conducted an internal investigation into the additional activities of the staff of the University Services Department.
Following the conclusions of the investigations, disciplinary steps have been taken against six members of the University staff. These entail four punitive dismissals, one conditional punitive dismissal and one permanent reduction in pay. The persons involved may appeal against these decisions. The investigations have also led to the immediate termination of the University’s relationship with a number of suppliers and external staff. Furthermore, the University has reported the staff members, suppliers and external staff to the police and is preparing to take legal steps against those involved to recover its losses.
The latest estimate of the financial losses suffered by the University, as stated in the FIOD’s account, is the sum of € 1.141.661 for the period 2008-2015. There is not sufficient information for the period before 2008 to justify further investigation of this period.
For the longer term, the whole University will work on a programme that focuses on integrity, changing the working culture and improving controls.
The Board of the University is confident that the actions outlined will enable the University to gain greater control, also in the longer term, and will reduce the risk of such fraud being repeated.
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