Charles Sturt University audit underway as it defends vice-chancellor Andy Vann's sabbatical

Charles Sturt University building in Barton, Canberra. Picture: Sitthixay Ditthavong
Charles Sturt University building in Barton, Canberra. Picture: Sitthixay Ditthavong

Charles Sturt University has revealed it has commissioned an independent audit and defended the decision to allow its vice-chancellor to go on leave during a time of turmoil.

Acting vice-chancellor Professor John Germov said in a statement that KPMG had been appointed to undertake an audit of the university and would report back to the university council.

"In line with the Sustainable Futures Program, the university is reviewing its policies, operational practices and senior leadership structures to ensure they align with our current operating environment," Professor Germov said.

Minister for Decentralisation and Regional Education Andrew Gee said the statement was inadequate and failed to commit to the audit in the terms that were set out in a resolution passed by the university council.

He said this resolution specifically stated that the financial audit would assess the impact of the university's Sustainable Futures Program and would include a pre, during and post COVID-19 data analysis of student enrolments.

"Now is the time for the university to open up the books and to shine some light on its finances, management and its operations. Sunshine is the best form of disinfectant," Mr Gee said.

"The council needs to get on and implement the resolution and audit in full."

Professor Germov said vice-chancellor Andrew Vann started a six-month sabbatical and leave break from June 22 which was agreed to before the COVID-19 outbreak. He said Professor Vann was working on a project related to Indigenous higher education.

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National Tertiary Education Union NSW assistant secretary Dr Damien Cahill attacked the decision to allow the vice-chancellor to take leave while jobs and courses were being cut.

"It almost defies belief that the university council would think it appropriate to allow the vice-chancellor to go on sabbatical at a time of profound crisis at the institution," Dr Cahill said.

The NTEU requested access to the university council meeting minutes for the past two years as the institution's policy requires summaries to be published. Professor Germov said the university was working to reinstate this practice.

Charles Sturt University began the Sustainable Futures Program in May to systemically review every department and division in a bid to improve its financial situation.

Up to 110 full-time equivalent jobs were identified for redundancy in the first round in June and an unknown number of jobs are at risk in a second round of cuts in September.

Professor Vann's term as Vice-Chancellor comes to an end in December 2021. A university spokesperson confirmed the recruitment for the next vice-chancellor was underway.

The university announced last week that 48 courses would be phased out, seven courses revitalised and 61 courses modified.

This story Audit under way as CSU defends vice-chancellor's sabbatical first appeared on The Canberra Times.

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