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Uni. VC Accused Of Misleading the Ombudsman

Media Release 8 May 2006

University Union Accuses VC of Deliberately Misleading the Ombudsman

The Canterbury Branch of the Association of University Staff (AUS) is lodging a formal complaint with the Attorney-General and Minister of Tertiary Education, Dr Michael Cullen, accusing the University of Canterbury Vice-Chancellor, Professor Roy Sharp, of deliberately giving false information to the Ombudsman.

The information is basic data about the financial performance of various university departments.

The AUS is also alleging that the university¹s refusal to supply the information prevented proper consultation over a proposal to make eight academic staff redundant in the College of Arts. A final announcement on redundancies is due on Wednesday (May 10).

The dispute began on 14 March when AUS Canterbury President, David Small, requested information about the contribution margins (rate of surplus) of departments outside those targeted in the College of Arts. After a month, the VC refused to provide the information, citing concerns about how the data might be used.

Dr Small appealed to the Ombudsman on the grounds that the refusal was not based on any of the lawful reasons in Section 9 of the Official Information Act.

When the Ombudsman investigated, the VC advised him that the information being sought ³does not exist².

Dr Small then wrote to all Heads in the university asking for the data in relation to their departments.

Within an hour of that email being circulated, the Vice-Chancellor called and offered to provide the ³non-existent² information.

By the time the information was provided, the consultation period for the redundancies had ended.

Dr Small describes the university¹s behaviour as ³thoroughly reprehensible and almost certainly illegal².

³The university knew this information was needed for proper consultation over the redundancies and withholding seems like a blatant breach of the Employment Relations Act. And then it responded to an Ombudsman¹s request with a declaration that looks like a blatant lie.²

For documentation of this story, see on -saga.html.


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