Thursday, March 14, 2013

Did the President of Red River College get caught with her knickers down?

Good Day Readers:

This story raises a few interesting questions beginning with the Canadian Taxpayers Federation. Of all the freedom of information requests it could have made why this one? Was it blind luck or was the CTF tipped off? If you're Ms Forsyth perhaps you should wondering about that.

The golf shoes. They will only be used for official college business. Can see it now. "Clunk, clunk, clunk" here comes President Forsyth on her way to a Board of Governors meeting wearing her official shoes. Besides, the shoes have a special lock affixed to ensure they cannot be used on weekends or after hours.

This incident also calls into question how tight is the expense accounting function at the college that these kinds of expenses that are so obviously questionable managed "to slip through" the system? When something like this comes to light it inevitably raises the question, "Is this an isolated situation or somewhat common throughout the school's administration?"

Finally, Ms Forsyth stresses she'd welcome a Board of Governors overall review of her spending. Huh? Or really? Like the Governors closely looking over your shoulder do we? And an "overall" review may be wishful thinking. A review is a review and should cover everything right down to those official golf shoes only used for school business.

But perhaps the biggest question this incident raises is what message does it send to your clients the students living on KD's who don't have official business golf shoes..
Sorry President Forsyth but your credibility has taken a hit over this one.

Sincerely,
Clare L. Pieuk
Red River College president Stephanie Forsyth pledges to pay back any questionable expenses

By Joyanne Pursaga
Thursday, March 14, 2013
The president of Red River College has vowed to pay back the college for her golf shoes and driver's licence.

Stephanie Forsyth was accused of improper spending on Wednesday after the Canadian Taxpayers Federation released the results of its freedom of information request, which revealed she submitted $78,842.21 worth of expenses between September 2010 and January 2013.

The document displays charges for a 2011 driver's licence, a $200 pair of golf shoes, $374.25 worth of ballet tickets and a $134 duffel bag.

In a written statement released Thursday, Forsyth stressed that she used the golf shoes for work purposes.

"I agree that golf shoes are an unusual item to submit but they were and are ONLY used for college business," she wrote. "However, I understand some people might find the expense questionable, so I will repay this expense."

— Forsyth

"I agree that golf shoes are an unusual item to submit but they were and are ONLY used for college business," she wrote. "However, I understand some people might find the expense questionable, so I will repay this expense."

Forsyth wrote that she welcomes the RRC Board of Governors review of her overall spending.

The statement clarifies that one driver's licence fee was paid in error, which Forsyth pledged to pay back "immediately." She said the duffel bag is actually property of the college.

Forsyth also vowed to publicly post her future expense statements on the RRC website, as of April 1.

The RRC Board reports directly to Advanced Education Minister Erin Selby.

Selby said she is glad the board ordered a review and agrees golf shoes are an "inappropriate expense." But she declined to confirm if she would have ordered the board to probe the expenses if they weren't already inclined to do so.

"The board's role is to provide oversight," said Selby. "It's up to the board to ensure the rules are clear."

Selby said it's standard practice for college and university boards to oversee such matters across the country.

When asked if presidents of post-secondary institutions should be required to post their expenses online, Selby said that would also be left up to the respective boards.

Advance Education critic Stuart Briese argues it is a provincial responsibility to ensure a review takes place.

"The minister is responsible for all the community colleges and the universities, so they need to be aware and take steps to get to the bottom of the allegations because they are serious," said Briese. "The buck stops at the minister's desk."

It's unclear if the story will spark any changes in how expenses are handled beyond Red River College.

A University of Manitoba professor said colleges do need autonomy to patrol themselves.

But Arthur Schafer, director of the University of Manitoba's Centre for Professional and Applied Ethics, also believes the minister must ensure any policy problems that arise from the investigation are corrected.

"Ultimately, the minister has to have the answers," said Schafer.

Twitter: @pursagawpgsun

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