College faces £5m euro bill

Adam Smith College
Adam Smith College

ADAm Smith College could have to pay back around £5m of European funding, it has been revealed.

The hefty bill has emerged after Scottish Government auditors sent in to investigate the college’s management delivered their report.

The money to be repaid came from European structural funds, and the Press understands the final bill could be as high as £5.5m.

The college has described that figure as ‘‘speculation’’ but several sources have indicated it is the ballpark figure currently under negotiation.

Talks are continuing behind the scenes to agree a final figure - and it is not known what, if any, impact it will have on courses or staff.

Substantial

The college had previously conceded it faced paying back ‘‘a substantial amount’’ of the funds it claimed over a five-year period between 2007 and 2012, and last month it suspended three senior staff who worked in the relevant areas.

All three remain absent from work - the latest senior management figures within the college to vacate their desks during the most turbulent 12-month period in the college’s history.

Fife Police have also launched an investigation at the request of the Crown Office.

David Torrance MSP is planning to meet with Martin McGuire, interim principal, to discuss the siuation.

He also said the past senior management must provide answers.

Speaking from the Scottish Parliament, Mr Torrance said: ‘‘If these figures are correct then the previous senior management must be held accountable. This was caused by their management decisions and this could cause a financial crisis within the college if the sums have to be paid back.’’

Mr Torrance said the refund would put college reserves ‘‘under severe pressure’’ - although the Press understands Adam Smith is, and has been, on a solid financial footing for many years.

Turbulent

The multi-million £ repayment is the latest development in a turbulent year on campus which has seen the suspension, resignation and retirement of Craig Thomson as principal, the suspension of his successor Ian Harrington, resignations from the board of governors, and three senior executives take gardening leave - two of which remain absent from their desks 12 months on.

Two weeks ago, news of the return of one executive, Christine Sinclair, sparked strong reaction among staff with EIS and Unison members making a collective grievance.

The Press understands that, despite winning her appeal against dismissal, the director of business has still not returned to work.

Talks between the unions and principal have been on-going - sources have indicated that the threat of a motion of no confidence in the board remains an option, and one that may taken to the Scottish Government.