Coatbridge College former principal should refund the public purse

A former college principal who received a severance payment vastly in excess of the terms which applied to more junior staff should repay the excess amount, a Committee inquiry report has recommended.

The Scottish Parliament’s Public Audit Committee today published its report on the governance of severance payments at the former Coatbridge College.  The inquiry was initiated following concerns raised by the Auditor General in her report on the subject.   

Following a series of evidence sessions in which the Committee heard from the key decision makers, the Committee agreed with the Auditor General’s view that the Chair of the former College – John Gray – colluded with the former Principal – John Doyle – to get the result they wanted, withholding relevant information from the College’s Remuneration Committee to achieve this. 

Police Scotland is being provided with a copy of the Committee’s report.    

Key conclusions and recommendations in today’s report include:

  • The former Principal of Coatbridge College should repay the monies he received in excess of the guidelines which applied across the college sector;
  • The college governance task group, led by the Cabinet Secretary, must learn from the report’s findings and take action to ensure something similar cannot happen again. The group must consider what sanctions should be available to the Scottish Funding Council (SFC) and what further powers might be required; and
  • Given the significant governance and oversight failings, the Scottish Government must look at the operation of the SFC and the effectiveness of its supervisory role.

Public Audit Committee Convener Paul Martin MSP said: 

“We found a number of witnesses to our inquiry unconvincing.  It was frustrating that key information relevant to our inquiry was not provided earlier than it was.

“There is a compelling moral argument for John Doyle to repay the tens of thousands of pounds extra he received from the College.      

“The Scottish Government provided more than £52 million between 2011/12 and 2013/14 to support the college merger process and most of that money was used to fund voluntary severance schemes.

“It was not provided however to allow already highly-paid public servants to feather their own nests at the expense of their colleagues and of their students’ education.   

“What we heard during our evidence sessions demonstrated clearly that the end result in relation to John Doyle’s severance payment was engineered through a process of misinformation and disregard for existing guidelines and process.  

“We found smokescreens where we should have found spotlights, distractions when we wanted directness.  Behind it all lies an appalling abuse of the public purse.  There simply was no business case for the former Principal to receive the level of severance payment he received.    

“Given the nature of much of the evidence we received, we are providing Police Scotland with a copy of this report to enable it to consider what action might be appropriate.   

“We very much hope that all our report is accepted and action is taken to ensure that situations such as this one simply do not happen again.”  

Background 

The Auditor General report The 2013/14 audit of Coatbridge College: Governance of Severance Arrangements is available here  http://www.audit-scotland.gov.uk/docs/central/2015/s22_150626_coatridge_college.pdf

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