Again- Spending scandal sparks Red River College changes

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By: Larry Kusch

THE Selinger government has introduced legislation to ensure proper financial and management oversight at Red River College.

The Red River College Act, tabled Wednesday, comes less than four months after a damning report into questionable expense claims and management practices by college former CEO Stephanie Forsyth and other former managers.

Bill 22 would strengthen and clarify the mandate, duties and composition of the college’s board, expanding the maximum number of governors to 17 from 12.

It would also expand the role of the board’s audit committee and give the minister of education new powers to set guidelines for fiscal accountability and transparency.

Other provisions cover such financial matters as borrowing, investing and internal accounting policies.

“The objective of the bill is to enhance financial accountability and strengthen governance practices at the college,” Education Minister James Allum said.

“(Red River) provides a critically important strategic role in education in Manitoba,” he said. “We felt it was important to strengthen the financial oversights and governance in order to make sure it’s well-positioned for the 21st century.”

Forsyth parted company with Red River in September after four years. A provincial government review found some of Forsyth’s expenses were questionable and others lacked supporting documentation and receipts.

Among the questionable expenses were $2,219 for dinner on three consecutive evenings at an upscale restaurant to hold job interviews and an invoice for $11,515 for a membership in a French culinary institute alliance.

Of 88 expenses reviewed, eight were not signed by the former president certifying that expenses claimed were true (although seven were approved) and 18 had incomplete supporting documentation.

The provincial review noted 16 senior managers left their jobs during Forsyth’s tenure. She fired eight of them without filing any record of just cause.

Forsyth once travelled to British Columbia to hire a consultant for more than $50,000 without tendering the job. She hired a vice-president before the college posted the job.

As well as expanding the college’s board, the proposed legislation beefs up the role of its finance and audit committee. That committee must consist of at least three members, all of whom are appointed by the education minister.

Lloyd Schreyer, chairman of Red River’s board of governors, said in a statement the college is pleased with the proposed legislation.

Schreyer said following the province’s release of its review in January, the college asked Winnipeg police to investigate how marble from its culinary arts building wound up in a renovated kitchen in Forsyth’s former Wellington Crescent home. That investigation is ongoing.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 14, 2015 A1

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