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Abstract of Accounts for the year ended 31 July 2000: Notice

19 March 2001

The Council have considered the remarks made by Dr Evans at the Discussion on 16 January 2001 of the Abstract of Accounts for the year ended 31 July 2000 (p. 394). They have sought comments from the Finance Committee, and have taken those comments into account in presenting the following response.

The Director of Research Services has investigated the claims made by Dr Evans that public research funding has been lost because, under CAPSA, responses could not be made in time to meet deadlines. He has not been able to find any examples of penalties being imposed because the deadline for final statements had not been met. Dr Evans declined to provide specific information which could be followed up. One area of potential difficulty mentioned by both the Director of Research Services and the Interim Director of Finance was the need for Departmental stores to charge to specific grants; Departments were being urged to clear any backlog in such charging. This was, however, not a new problem and it has not as yet been possible to quantify what level of loss might be due to CAPSA.

Dr Evans referred to the question of who had authority to conduct legal proceedings and stated that such matters were not discussed properly by the Council in terms of value for money. Under the regulations for conduct of business (Statutes and Ordinances, p. 118) the Council have authority to take legal advice, retain solicitors, and bring, defend, or conduct legal proceedings on behalf of the University. In line with the procedure agreed by the Council, the Registrary has routinely reported to the Council, via the Executive Committee, legal actions of which, in his opinion, the Council should be aware or which were likely to involve expenditure greater than £15,000. The legal advisers used regularly by the University have standing instructions to accept work only from certain named individuals.

The figure for legal and other professional expenses shown for 1998-99 had been restated in the 1999-2000 Abstract of Accounts to exclude items that the Finance Committee deemed no longer appropriate to include under this head. These included exchange losses (£255,000) and the cost of external public relations advice. The restated total represented legal fees of £201,000 and other professional costs including bank charges. The cost of legal fees in 1999-2000 was £295,000, included in the total of £423,000 published in the Abstract of Accounts.

The statement in paragraph 8, p. 5, of the Abstract of Accounts: 'The University maintains a Register of Interest of Members of the Council, the General Board, the Finance Committee and Audit Committee, and of the Senior Administrative Officers, which may be consulted by arrangement with the Registrary' was correct for the year in question. The Council subsequently agreed at their meeting in November 2000 to accept the recommendation in the HEFCE Audit Service Report that the Register should be extended to include members of all its Committees, Joint Committees, and Sub-Committees.

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Cambridge University Reporter, 21 March 2001
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