Virk has been under fire since Tuesday when Finance Minister Mike de Jong released a report into allegations of improper compensation paid to two executive employees at Kwantlen Polytechnic University that found the university failed to meet government’s disclosure requirements.
The report found:
* There were failures by Kwantlen Polytechnic University (KPU) to disclose as required under government’s employment compensation guidelines.
* KPU did disclose two pre-employment contracts pursuant to the Financial Information Act. However, more detailed disclosure was required to comply with the guidelines.
Virk was a member of the board at KPU, but he and the others won’t face any penalty.
NDP Leader John Horgan on Wednesday demanded Virk’s resignation.
And on Thursday, NDP Advanced Education Critic David Eby called for an Auditor General investigation into all irregular payments at Kwantlen University, including an alleged $18,000 payment to a former president.
VIRK told The VOICE on Thursday: “[The Premier] fully understands the role and responsibilities that I had three years ago and that, in hindsight, those responsibilities could have been done better. However, in the last year in my role as the Minister for Advanced Education I have one goal to make life better for students all across B.C. within a financially responsible mandate.”
He said: “The facts are such that as a board member at Kwantlen there was compensation reported but not reported correctly and there were failures at the university and at the board and I was at the board.
“In that respect, being a board member I’ve taken full responsibility for the fact that as a board member I should have done a better job at that time and in many ways, as a board member, you do your utmost, but I think I’ve learned from that in many ways.
“Three years ago, as a board member, I should have done better. And I’ve made that quite clear to the Premier that yes, I should have done better – absolutely should have done better.
“She has the full confidence in me to continue on my responsibilities in my role as Minister of Advanced Education.”
He said that he was not quitting although “there have been those repeated calls and have been in the past and I expect they’ll be in the future not only against myself and other ministers” by the Opposition. He added: “That’s their mantra and that’s part of the democratic process.”
REGARDING the allegation by some that Virk had said he would resign if anything was found to be wrong, he told me: “That’s a lie. I have never said that if found wrong that I would do so. My comments have been quite clear from that that there was a reporting done at that time and indeed the university did report the salary under the financial information act, but the findings of the report as I look into it, that the reporting was not sufficient in detail and that the reporting could have been improved.
“And now there’s been a bunch of recommendations made that not only do university executives need better information how to do proper reporting, but volunteer board members across the province need more training to ensure that they are aware of all the responsibilities and obligations on compensation, the statutory and the guidelines on reporting.
“So it’s a recognition that we need to do a better job with our volunteers – in a very, very complex environment how they can do their jobs better.”
I asked Virk if the Premier had made it very clear to him that he is going to remain minister and responded: “Well absolutely.”
He added: “If you look at the report, it’s a fact … that the board at that time – and I was the vice chair of the board – failed to make proper disclosure. They did make disclosure but it wasn’t done in the appropriate manner on executive compensation and that is the finding and we accept that report that we need corrective action across the entire sector in terms of our individuals who are there, whether in an executive capacity or in a volunteer capacity, fully understand the spirit and the intent of the reporting requirements.
“So I guess in life, when you are working and you’re doing a lot of things and volunteering, you must learn from those things that you’ve done that you think you could have done better. As a volunteer board member at that time, I ought to have looked at the legislation a little tighter and saying ‘okay, this reporting is right or it isn’t wrong.’ So I’m very clear in that I hold myself to a high standard, but going back, I could have done a better job.
“And in many respects that’s going to make my ability to do this big job even better.”
BY RATTAN MALL