27 July 2012

The University of Queensland (UQ) said today no complaint had been received by any current or former staff member in relation to reprisals from whistleblowing.

UQ Vice-Chancellor Professor Deborah Terry said: “I am disappointed by recent inaccurate media reports that imply a former staff member had allegedly experienced reprisals from the University.

“A range of protections is available to staff and I wish to reassure them that we have received no complaints of this nature.

“UQ staff and former employees are encouraged to bring forward suspected or known impropriety or any other misconduct to the appropriate people within UQ, or to external authorities.

“Anyone who exposes such conduct is protected by law, under the Public Interest Disclosure Act 2010.

“UQ will not tolerate reprisal action or behaviours,” she said.

Professor Terry said recent media articles attempting to link the departure of the former Director of Assurance and Risk Management Services (ARMS) Mr Phil Procopis, to his role in communicating information to the Chancellor in relation to the admission irregularity that led to the departure of UQ’s two most senior staff in December 2011, were incorrect and extremely misleading.

“To set the record straight – Mr Procopis was not the whistleblower, or the originator of the information – nor did he 'unearth' the information,” Professor Terry said.

“It was a day-to-day part of Mr Procopis’ role as Director of ARMS to receive disclosures of this nature and to communicate matters of this nature to the Chancellor.

“Another staff member, who remains protected under the Public Interest Disclosure Act 2010, provided the information to Mr Procopis.

"This person is still employed by the University and we will not disclose their identity.

“Also, we do not tolerate reprisals against whistleblowers.”

Professor Terry said the suggestion in a series of media articles that there was retribution against Mr Procopis because the University thought he was a whistleblower, is absolutely incorrect, quite outrageous and potentially unsettling for other staff members.

“I am fully committed to fulfilling the University’s obligations under the Public Interest Disclosure Act 2010,” she said.

“There is absolutely no link between Mr Procopis’ initial role in the reporting of the admission irregularity, and the reorganisation of ARMS.”

Professor Terry said planning for the ARMS review commenced in the first half of 2011 before the Chancellor received information about an irregular admission.

“The University regularly reviews all areas of its business and the ARMS review was part of a scheduled process.

"In August 2011, the review panel was appointed and its terms of reference were agreed.

"The review was chaired by an independent, interstate expert on auditing and risk management,” she said.

Professor Terry said statements in the media that the Review Report did not call for the removal of the role of Director of ARMS required clarification.

“It is important to clarify that while the Review Report did not call for the removal of the role of Director of ARMS, the change in the structure occurred as a consequence of the review and the subsequent plan for its implementation.

"This was endorsed by the Review Committee,” she said.

The Report stated … “in order for the University to fully achieve its institutional objectives, changes in emphasis, organisational and management structure are required” and called for the reorganisation of the former ARMS Unit into two separate units: 1. Enterprise Risk and 2. Internal Audit and Investigations.

After receiving the Review Report, it was decided, in consultation with the Review Committee, to establish separate Internal Audit and Investigations areas, in order to ensure alignment with the international best practice ‘three lines of defence’ model (recognised by the Review Committee and advocated by the Institute of Internal Auditors).

Hence, three new and separate units were agreed to: Internal Audit, Investigations, and Risk each with separate accountabilities and reporting lines led by staff at an Associate Director level – who have direct and open access to the Chancellor, Vice-Chancellor and Chair of the Senate Risk Committee.

This new structure meant there was no requirement for an overarching Director role.

The implementation of the review recommendations also involved extensive consultation with staff.

The University’s Staff Consultative Committee, which included union representation, unanimously agreed to the new structure.

“The UQ Senate, the Senate Risk Committee and the CMC were briefed in relation to the review and the proposed restructure prior to its implementation,” she said.

Professor Terry said any University staff member affected by a reorganisation has a range of options available to them, including: seeking a review of the decision-making processes; applying for positions that are similar to the role held as well as for other positions in the University; redeploying with appropriate training; or accepting a redundancy package.

“All of these options were available to the former Director of ARMS,” she said.

Professor Terry said statements in a media article today “only a handful of senior UQ officials” had seen the investigation report by a senior counsel were also incorrect and extremely misleading.

“The independent investigation report was provided to the CMC as part of our briefing process to them in 2011.

"We have been co-operating with them ever since to assist them in their investigations,” she said.

“The report given to the CMC was not able to be made public due to the need to maintain the privacy of the individuals who provided information to the investigation on the basis that their statements would remain private.

"This is a basic right of protection for any individuals providing information to an investigation of this nature.

"I feel sure every Queenslander would wish us to uphold this basic right of privacy and trust.”

Professor Terry wished to point out she had been selectively quoted in a recent media report.

“When interviewed by a journalist earlier this week about the briefing to the CMC about reorganisation of Assurance and Risk Management I explained that the Chair of the Senate Risk Committee, and I, met with and briefed the CMC in February 2012 on the Review recommendations and on our proposed implementation.

"I also explained that I followed up with a very detailed letter to the CMC that provided all the relevant details.”

The transcript of Professor Terry’s response to the journalist is as follows:

Journalist: Did you inform the CMC specifically that the post of director would no longer exist?

Professor Terry: “In the letter, which I don’t have sitting right next to me, but it went through that we were creating three Associate Director positions to head up the three separate areas.”

Journalist: And the position of Director of ARMS, or the Director of Audit and Investigations or whatever, it wouldn’t exist?

Professor Terry: “I can’t remember exactly what was in the letter, the exact wording, but certainly all of the details in terms of now what is being implemented were conveyed both verbally and in writing to the CMC.”

“The final response is my full response – rather than what was reported today,” she said.

Professor Terry said recent media comments regarding ‘pay-outs’ to Professors Greenfield and Keniger were also incorrect.

“Legally we, and any other organisation in Australia, are not permitted to retrospectively take away an individual’s salary, superannuation or annual leave entitlements.

"These are essential provisions that protect the basic rights of any employee,” she said.

“In both cases the payment covered only the entitlements we were legally obliged to pay (i.e. salary, superannuation contributions and accrued leave payments).

"No other bonuses or payments were made.”

Professor Terry reiterated that the University was extremely committed to the implementation of the Integrity and Accountability Reform Program.

“As I said when I announced the Program in May, an element of the reform program is a strengthening of organisational structures to support assurance, investigation and risk management.

"We remain firmly committed to this,” she said.