New Democrats want Premier to fire Amrik Virk and Auditor General to investigate, KPU says processes will be rectified

Amrik VirkFOLLOWING a report that shows the B.C. Liberal Advanced Education Minister broke the government’s rules on post-secondary executive compensation limits and disclosure, the New Democrats say the premier must remove the minister from his post.

“While he was Kwantlen Polytechnic University’s governor responsible for ensuring the rules on limiting and disclosing executive salaries were followed, Amrik Virk broke those rules in at least two separate cases,” said New Democrat Leader John Horgan. “Mr. Virk cannot now be the minister responsible for ensuring post-secondary institutions follow the same rules he broke as a university governor.

“The premier must remove him from his post.”

Horgan said the premier’s attempt to sweep this issue under the rug following the release of a report about Virk’s involvement shows she either doesn’t understand or doesn’t intend to enforce her own claims to having high standards and principles.

In March 2013, the premier said, “There is no value more important to me than respect for the taxpayer and ensuring that rules are properly followed.”

Just last week she said, “As premier of our province though I also have another responsibility and that is to every single British Columbian, and I have and I will always strive to maintain the highest standard of integrity.”

“Mr. Virk broke the rules on how much taxpayers pay to executives and the rules on disclosing those full amounts to the public,” said Horgan. “The Premier must live up to her own purported standards. Her own Advanced Education Minister failed to follow the rules, and failed to maintain the highest standard of integrity.

“He cannot be trusted to be the person that ensures others do.”

David Eby, New Democrat Advanced Education Critic, said, “Mr. Virk excuses himself, claiming no one told him the rules he was supposed to follow. I sincerely doubt as a police officer, Mr. Virk ever accepted that excuse from someone accused of committing a crime.”

Eby said if Virk followed the premier’s principles of upholding rules and integrity, he would have already stepped down, and the premier wouldn’t need to fire him.

MEANWHILE, Shane King, Chair, Kwantlen Polytechnic University Board of Governors, in a statement said: “Further to the Compensation Review conducted by Assistant Deputy Minister Rob Mingay, we accept Mr. Mingay’s decision that the filing of two pre-employment contracts was found to be inconsistent with the spirit and intent of Public Sector Employers Council Secretariat guidelines.

“KPU disclosed the pre-employments contracts for former Provost Dr. Anne Lavack and current President Dr. Alan Davis in KPU’s Statement of Financial Information prepared pursuant to the Financial Information Act. However, Mr. Mingay found this did not comply with compensation guidelines.

“It is our intention to rectify our processes and procedures.

“To that end, KPU has engaged MNP LLP to conduct an Executive Management Compensation Process and Control Audit designed to understand and assess KPU’s current processes and controls in relation to its executive management compensation and related expenses, to identify improvement opportunities and to provide practical recommendations for improvement.

“MNP will conduct its work in its role as independent internal auditor, and an initial report to the KPU Board of Governors’ Audit Committee will be delivered within five to seven weeks.

“In addition, KPU will ensure this review specifically addresses Mr. Mingay’s recommendation for a formalized process to make board members aware of their responsibilities and obligations for compensation transparency, statutory requirements and guideline reporting.

“I want to ensure this matter does not reflect negatively on Dr. Davis, who simply accepted the university’s employment offer and pre-employment contract. We are eager to move forward under his leadership.”

NEW Democrats are calling for an Auditor General investigation into all irregular payments at Kwantlen University, including an alleged $18,000 payment to a former president overseen by B.C. Liberal Minister of Advanced Education Amrik Virk when he was the Kwantlen governor most responsible for ensuring compensation rules are followed.

“We need a truly independent investigation by the Auditor General because the premier refuses to hold the minister to account for what we know already, that Mr. Virk broke the rules and tried to hide it. He wasn’t just any board member, he was the governor most responsible for ensuring compensation rules were followed and properly disclosed,” said New Democrat Advanced Education Critic David Eby. “Premier Clark is more interested in damage control than getting to the bottom of just how far the minister’s inappropriate conduct went.

“We repeatedly asked that the investigation overseen by the B.C. Liberals include evidence of an $18,000 pay-off to the former president of Kwantlen University, yet it was not examined in the report at all due to the premier’s own narrow terms of the investigation.”

Documents obtained by New Democrats suggest that former Kwantlen president John McKendry requested an $18,000 payment that he was not entitled to upon leaving Kwantlen University. A letter was drafted refusing the request, but emails suggest it may have been held back because the president could be a “key witness” in a lawsuit involving the university.

“The public deserves answers about whether the Minister of Advanced Education was involved in giving away $18,000 of public money in exchange for favourable testimony in a court of law,” said Eby.

Eby also noted that the author of the government report into executive compensation at Kwantlen noted there were larger questions that he was not able to investigate because of his narrow mandate.

“It’s time for a full accounting of wrong-doing at Kwantlen University that examines the role played by the Minister of Advanced Education in irregular payments and misuse of tax dollars,” said Eby. “I’m hopeful that the Auditor General will agree.”