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The Council have considered the recommendations contained in the Eighth Report of the Board of Scrutiny (Reporter, 2002-03, p. 1274) and the remarks made at the Discussion of the Report on 7 October 2003 (Reporter, 2003-04, p. 72).
In its Report the Board states that it is the University's official 'watchdog body'. The University has several official watchdogs, including the Audit Committee, and in a sense the Regent House. The Board of Scrutiny is one of several scrutiny bodies and operates under a special Statute (Statute A, VIII). This Statute states in section 1 that the Board shall in each year scrutinize on behalf of the Regent House the Annual Report of the Council, the Abstract of the Accounts of the University, and any Report of the Council proposing allocations from the Chest. The statement also provides that the Board should perform such other duties as may be specified by Ordinance or Order. Section 2 of the same Statute gives the Board of Scrutiny the right of reporting to the University on any matters falling within the scope of section 1.
The Council have agreed to comment on the recommendations in the Board's Report as follows:
The RAM contains elements which bear on central costs (including those of the central administration itself) because these costs are charged out to Schools and other institutions, on a basis which makes the central authorities accountable. The Council and the General Board have published a Joint Report to inform the University about the RAM (Reporter, p. 182).
There will be an opportunity to debate such issues at the Discussion of the Joint Report on the RAM on 2 December. The Council note that the RAM contains provision for 'moderation' or cross-subsidy. The general problem before the University in this regard is not so much that of small Departments as such, as of small subjects (or subject specialisms in larger Departments) in terms of student numbers or research volume. The Board refer to 'HEFCE ratings': this is presumably a reference to recent Research Assessment Exercise (RAE) scores. The methodology of the RAE varies from time to time and this makes the RAE by itself a risky measure for making judgements about the future of subjects within the University. The General Board is undertaking a review of the performance of those of our subjects which, by Cambridge standards, have performed relatively less well in the RAE.
The Council, through the Planning and Resources Committee, have already initiated a strategic planning process.
The Council and the Finance Committee are preparing consolidated financial statements, and hope to present these for the first time in relation to the financial year 2003-04, with a consolidated budget for the financial year 2004-05 except that the accounts for Cambridge University Press will not be included. The Council have authorized discussions with the Press Syndicate about the possibility of inclusion of the Press's accounts in the University's consolidated financial statements. The Council are pleased that the Board acknowledge and 'warmly welcome the step to present consolidated accounts' (Reporter, p. 73).
The Council have noted the comments of the Board about Assistant Staff pension matters (paragraph 40, etc. of the Report) but regret the alarmist tone of the Board's remarks. An actuarial report has been requested and will be considered by the Finance Committee and the Council.
The Council have been advised by the Finance Committee that they have referred the question of investment advice and fund management to their Investments Sub-committee for comment.
A Notice has been published to inform the University of the present situation relating to the proposed facility (Reporter, p. 115). In this the Council assured the Regent House that they would be properly informed of developments regarding the facility. If it becomes clear that further authority to proceed is required then a further Grace will be put forward. Planning permission for the research centre has now been given (see p. 230).
The Council have already indicated that a procurement strategy of 'two-stage contracting' is increasingly used in building contracts whereby the first contract with the main contractor is for buildability, design, and tendering assistance (typically at a cost of just a few tens of thousands of pounds), with the second contract being for the construction work on site. They have agreed that in future they will usually produce a first-stage Report proposing building work before the first-stage contract has been signed to be followed by a further Report when full costings for the project are available. As recent Reports demonstrate, and as the Chairman of the Board acknowledged in his remarks in the Discussion, this is being implemented where possible.
The Council have already indicated that they will consider establishing a body to review governance matters when Professor Richard, as Vice-Chancellor, has had an opportunity to assess the position.
The Council note the Board's comments on the interim report of the Lambert Review. They do not agree with the comment, that the Board highlights, that Cambridge's internal organization is 'closed and inward looking'. Were this a correct picture, it would indeed be unfortunate.
The Council intend to initiate a review of these matters, as already indicated (Reporter, 2002-03, p. 920). At least as important as the voting rules is the way in which ballots are worded and amendments handled. All these issues will need to be considered and the Council have agreed to set up a working party.
Action lists on the Shattock and Finkelstein recommendations have regularly been submitted to the Council by Professor Grant, Pro-Vice-Chancellor. An internal audit report on the implementation of CAPSA review recommendations is under consideration by the Audit Committee and has been received by the Council, who have endorsed a Management Response.
This matter will arise in connection with any review of governance. It raises broad questions such as whether a single central body should be established, as at Oxford, and how functional bodies and bodies such as the Councils of the Schools would relate to a central body or central bodies. The Council are currently reviewing the respective work and responsibilities of the Finance Committee and the Planning and Resources Committee.
Any comprehensive revision of the Statutes and Ordinances would be a major task and in any event must depend on the outcome of any future review of governance.
The Council are happy to engage in a dialogue with the Board of Scrutiny but in general would find it easier to respond to the Board's recommendations if the Board scrutinized matters that had been completed rather than work in progress which will inevitably have moved on before the Council are able to respond.
In addition to their response to the specific recommendations in the Eighth Report of the Board of Scrutiny the Council wish to respond to the remarks made at the Discussion of the Report by Dr D. R. de Lacey who commented that aspects of CamSIS, the Cambridge Student Information System, looked 'frighteningly close to the uncontrolled freefall of CAPSA'. It is not clear from his remarks what aspects he had in mind but, as a member of its Technical SIG, he will be aware that CamSIS has a committee structure in line with accepted best practice for project management. In line with the Shattock and Finkelstein recommendations, the University has retained control of the Project rather than employing consultants as it did for CAPSA. External peer review has been used (and will continue to be used) at key stages in the Project and the review's conclusions have been that the Project is well set up and managed. The Council will continue to monitor the project by means of the procedures developed by the Director of the Management Information Services Division for the life-cycle management of Management Information Services applications and infrastructure systems, and by audit at key stages.
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Cambridge University Reporter, 26 November 2003
Copyright © 2011 The Chancellor, Masters and Scholars of the University of Cambridge.