A report leaked to Cherwell this week revealed doubts over claims for travel expenses made by Brasenose Principal Professor Roger Cashmore and his wife.
A college finance committee addressed travel expenses incurred over the past five years by the Principal, his wife, and the previous Director of Development, Mrs Robin Sharp.
The report is a summary of a dossier where much of the correspondence is marked “Confidential” or “Strictly confidential”.
The Sub-Committee include details of several travel expenses claimed by the Principal which were thought to warrant closer scrutiny.
Of a trip to Pakistan in November 2005, which was “funded mainly by the college”, the report raises “serious doubts” as to whether this trip was in fact made on College business.
The Principal attended three Brasenose receptions in Pakistan, and the report states that “circumstances point in the direction” that the main purpose of the trip was conference attendance.
But costs had already been reimbursed by the conference organisers. The report claims that the Principal “tagged on some college business” in order to use enhanced rates, at a cost of nearly £1700 to the college.
The report also notes “the high cost of the ticket” for the Principal’s journey to the North American Reunion in April 2004 and a lack of clarity over “who authorised [the] expenses” for his travel.
It states that “no authorisation seems to have been given” for a trip to North America in 2007 and a “Visit to Greece” in 2008, where in both cases the Principal flew business class and costs were met by the college.
According to the report, the College paid for transport by taxi to and from Heathrow airport on at least two occasions, despite the fact that the University rules state that this may only be done in exceptional circumstances. The report says, “No justification for the existence of such circumstances has been given”.
In addition to these allegations against the Principal, the report also claims misuse of travel expenses on the part of the Principal’s wife.
College policy of reimbursement of travel expenses explicitly refers to “members of College” or “college employees obliged to travel during their duties”.
However, the report reveals that prior to July 2008, the College “routinely met the travel expenses of the Principal’s wife” even though “such expenditure had never been expressly authorised”.
In one case, authorisation was expressly denied but the trip in question still went ahead.
The Committee did not authorise reimbursement for a trip to the United States in September 2009, on the basis that it was contrary to College guidelines. Despite this ruling, the report reveals that the Principal’s wife travelled to the United States in September 2009, and the college paid for this.
The Principal justified the reimbursement of his wife’s travel expenses on the grounds that his wife is a “very active member of the College” as she provides a “focal point for the women students” and arranges “receptions, dinner and drinks” for students, fellows and alumni.
The report understands that the Bursar “tacitly agreed” with the College meeting the Principal’s wife’s travel expenses.
The report concluded that it was “impossible” to be confident that University rules regarding travel expenses were adhered to. However, the Principal said that “[a]ll of the travel that I and my wife have been involved in has always conformed to [the University’s] rules”.
Both the Bursar and the Principal of Brasenose were approached by Cherwell but were unavailable for comment. The Principal was away.