Wales

Swansea University finance report late amid inquiry

Swansea University Image copyright leighcol/Getty Images
Image caption Swansea University is undergoing an internal audit and inquiry

"Serious questions" need to be asked about internal issues at Swansea University, Plaid Cymru AM Bethan Sayed has said.

It is the only institute in Wales, England and Scotland to have not yet produced its 2017-18 financial report.

The deadline to release the results to the Higher Education Financial Council of Wales (HEFCW) was 30 November 2018.

Swansea University said the delay was due to "exceptional" circumstances as it carries out an internal inquiry.

The university has also confirmed a sixth member of staff has been suspended as part of the ongoing internal investigation.

BBC Wales has been told it is Dr Gerry Ronan, who is listed on the university's website as managing director of Swansea Innovations and head of commercialisation of intellectual property.

HEFCW, the body responsible for funding higher education in Wales, said it was "rare" for accounts to be submitted after the cut-off date and it believes that accounts have never been submitted this late by any university.

The Office for Students in England and the Scottish Funding Council said all other institutions had submitted their 2017-18 reports.

The university said it was "misleading" to compare the seven-month delay with other higher education institutions because of the internal audit and inquiry.

"It [the delay] has no bearing on the financial well-being or performance of the university," said a spokesman.

"Swansea University has been undertaking a significant internal investigation, which has involved our auditors conducting some further enquiries, in conjunction with the university. 

"These circumstances are clearly exceptional and unusual and to compare this with other universities, who are not in this position, is misleading."

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Prof Richard B Davies has been vice-chancellor of Swansea University since 2003

There are interventions HEFCW can implement if universities fail to adhere to financial management code.

However the governing body said: "We are not at this stage with Swansea University."

The Welsh Government said it would seek a "firm assurance" on the university's financial health.

Ms Sayed, Plaid's higher education spokeswoman, said the news was "deeply concerning" for those who work or study at an "economic pillar" for the region.

"We've heard virtually nothing from the university, the Welsh Government or HEFCW since the current problems at the university started late last year," the South Wales West AM said.

"It wasn't good enough six months ago and it certainly isn't now.

"The university must produce its accounts. The fact that it hasn't done so for so long will mean there are serious questions, which will naturally be raised, about the internal issues and whether or not they have something to hide.

"They also need to produce a clear account of what happened in terms of management changes and suspensions - and then propose a clear resolution."

Image copyright Carmarthenshire council
Image caption The Wellness Village near Llanelli is expected to include leisure, education and health services

Swansea University confirmed that a sixth senior member of staff has been suspended in the space of seven months.

It has previously refused to say why any of the members of staff have been suspended.

Vice-chancellor Prof Richard B Davies, and the dean of the school of management, Marc Clement, were among four staff members suspended in November 2018 over links with under-fire plans to build a £200m Wellness Village in Llanelli

Anther staff member was suspended in February for unknown reasons.

All five previously suspended deny any wrongdoing. Prof Davies and Prof Clement and two other staff members have launched grievance procedures against the university.

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