The following describes the procedure to be followed when a University officer or staff member identifies an irregularity, this might include but are not limited to:
- Misappropriation of the physical, monetary, or intellectual property assets of the University.
- Destruction, concealment or falsification of an account, record or document made for accounting purposes.
- Production or use of any account, record or document which is known or suspected to be misleading, false, or deceptive in any material particular.
- Accepting, agreeing, or attempting to obtain a bribe.
- Giving or agreeing to give or offer a bribe.
- Attempts to conceal any of the above.
This procedure is intended to assist individuals who believe that malpractice or impropriety has occurred. It is not designed to allow the questioning of financial or business decisions taken by the University.
An individual who discovers information which they have reasonable grounds to believe shows malpractice or impropriety within the University should be able to disclose that information without fear of reprisal and independently of line management where necessary, provided that the disclosure is made in good faith and without malice.
This section of the Regulations is distinct from the Public Interest Disclosure procedure and is intended to supplement, rather than replace, the guidance provided within that procedure.
The University will treat all such disclosures in a confidential and sensitive manner. Every effort will be made to keep the identity of all parties confidential so long as such confidentiality is compatible with a fair investigation. This procedure applies to all University employees, agency workers and self-employed workers and to all members of the University as defined by Statute 2 (this includes graduates and students of the University).
Any person who has reason to believe that an irregularity with financial implications for the University has or is about to take place, is required to inform their Head of Department and the Internal Auditor immediately. The Head of Department will in turn notify the Director of Finance immediately. If it is suspected that the Head of Department is involved in the irregularity, the matter should be notified to the Director of Finance and Internal Auditor directly.
In accordance with University procedure, the matter should subsequently be notified to the F3 Reporting Group, comprising the Vice-Chancellor and President, Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Director of Finance, Director of Policy, Planning & Compliance, and the Senior Legal Advisor.
If the disclosure involves or implicates any of the individuals identified above, then the disclosure should be made immediately to the Chair of ARAC and/or Chair of Council.
Failure to inform the appropriate person immediately may mean that further losses are incurred or that evidence is lost.
In the event of possible fraud or corruption, the F3 Reporting Group will determine whether an investigation should be conducted and if so, what form it should take. All investigations shall normally be led by the Internal Auditor and employees of the University are expected to co-operate with requests for assistance by the Internal Auditor. Where initial investigation provides reasonable grounds for suspecting a member or members of the University of irregularity, action will be taken to prevent further loss. This may require suspension, with or without pay, of the suspect(s) and removal of physical (i.e. campus, building and office) and systems access rights.
A member of the University suspended under suspicion of irregularities will be allowed to collect personal property under supervision but should not be able to remove any property belonging to the University. Any security passes and keys to premises, offices and furniture should be returned.
The University will follow disciplinary procedures against any member of the University who has committed fraud. The University will normally pursue the prosecution of any such individual. ARAC should be advised of the reason where the police are not notified of a suspected or actual fraud. The F3 Reporting Group will determine as to whether an incident is reported to the police. The lead investigator should prepare an ‘Evidence Pack’ that can be handed to the police at the time the fraud is reported, and a Crime Reference Number obtained.
The Internal Auditor or those investigating the incident will ensure that the amount of any loss is quantified in all fraud investigations. Repayment of losses together with costs will be sought in all cases. Legal advice will be sought where the loss is (potentially) substantial or about the prospects for recovering losses through the civil court in circumstances where the perpetrator(s) refuse repayment. The University’s insurers should be involved in such cases and, indeed, their notification (above) may be a mandatory requirement of cover.
The OfS has established the regulatory framework for higher education in England that requires the University to provide information under the condition F3 (provision of information to the OfS) and defines a reportable event as “any event of circumstance that, in the judgement of the OfS, materially affects or could materially affect the provider’s legal form or business model, and/ or its willingness or ability to comply with it conditions of registration”.
Included within this definition is a suspected or actual fraud or financial irregularity and information is required to be submitted to the OfS including:
- Nature of the fraud (e.g. theft of equipment)
- Value of fraud
- Date of fraud
- Who committed the fraud? If committed by a member of staff, what is their role and area of work?
- Who has the fraud been reported to within the provider (e.g. Chair of governing body) and externally (e.g. police)?
- Action taken following the fraud
- How will the provider mitigate the risk of further fraud?
ARAC has a duty to “oversee the institution’s policy on fraud and irregularity, including being notified of any action taken under that policy.” Any incident meeting the criteria for a report to the OfS should be reported to ARAC.
On completion of any investigation the F3 Reporting Group should submit to ARAC a report typically containing:
- A description of the incident, including the value of any loss, the people involved and the means of perpetrating the fraud
- Actions taken to prevent recurrence, and,
- A plan detailing any recommendations and actions (with timings) required to strengthen future fraud responses.
The Head of Internal Audit Services will, at an appropriate time, consider the results of the investigations and assess whether there is a weakness in the University’s systems of internal control which needs to be addressed urgently, and will report accordingly.