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UG takes measures following investigation into funding of NOHA programme

13 January 2020

An investigation into the funding of the NOHA (Network on Humanitarian Action) programme has prompted the Board of the University to take employment-law-related measures against the staff members involved. T he established facts are very serious. The measures vary from dismissal for one employee to several official warnings.

On 12 March 2019, questions have arisen concerning the funding of the NOHA programme. This is a joint international Master’s degree programme at the Faculty of Arts. It appears that public funds (students’ grant money and tuition fees) intended for the UG did not reach the University (or did not do so directly), but were instead transferred to a foundation – the Stichting NOHA Groningen (SNG). This foundation had been set up by three Faculty of Arts staff members, without the University’s knowledge. The Board of the University instructed EY Forensic & Integrity Services to investigate this matter. Pending the completion of that investigation, the staff members concerned were relieved of (some of) their duties.

The main conclusions drawn from that investigation are as follows:

  • By setting up the SNG in 2014, three Faculty of Arts staff members created a vehicle for handling grant money/public funds, unsupervised by the UG. This enabled them to dispose of these funds beyond the reach of the UG’s control mechanisms.
  • By this means, one of the staff members involved was able to claim substantial expenses. This individual also made extra payments to his personal account, to other staff members, and to external lecturers, without any supervision whatsoever.
  • Contracts were entered into with external partners, using official UG letterheads and stamps, but these documents bore the foundation’s bank account number.
  • In total, approximately €1.2 million was diverted from the UG.

The Chairman of the Board, Jouke de Vries, stated that: ”We were shocked at the gravity of the offences uncovered by this investigation. By acting as they did, the individuals involved risked damaging the reputation of the UG. The actions of those involved have also seriously undermined the trust placed in us by our students, our partner universities and the European Commission. We are also deeply aware of the personal aspects of this matter, of people who have been incredibly passionate about the NOHA programme for many years. However, we are forced to conclude that this is a gross transgression of accepted boundaries, and that the staff members involved must answer for their actions. We will do everything in our power to redress this breach of our international partners’ trust. We will also identify the measures needed to prevent any recurrence. Finally, the Board of the University acknowledges that the UG has been afflicted by several incidents. These cases will be used to make clear that the way we do things at UG must be changed. We have clear rules regarding integrity, and it is imperative that all staff adhere to them.

The University has submitted an official report to the police regarding fraud (including grant fraud) and the falsification of documents. At the same time, the foundation’s bank account has been seized. Finally, civil proceedings have been started against Stichting NOHA Groningen and one of the staff members involved.

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Last modified:12 March 2020 9.17 p.m.
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