Research finance proposal a step in the right direction

Throughout the past academic year, the university’s financial management has been under review and attack. From Harvey Weingarten’s payout to the research grant fiasco, the University of Calgary has received negative and critical attention. However, there have been some positive steps to correct these past mistakes.

To recap, a February report from a council of Canada’s top research grant agencies — the Natural Science and Engineering Research Council, Social Science and Humanities Research Council, and Canadian Institutes of Health Research — found fault with the university’s management of grants. As the report outlined, the “framework for ensuring grant funds are used in accordance with the agencies’ requirements continues to be unsatisfactory.”

This is the second report the tri-council has submitted to the university, the first was in 2006. The council outlined recommendations on how to resolve recurring issues, like claiming purchases unrelated to actual research. Despite the statement, no changes were made to rectify the identified problems until this latest report. While the lack of changes during the past four years may be blamed on past management, that issue hopefully has been addressed with the 2009 appointment of vice-president finance Jonathan Gebert and 2007 appointment of VP research Rose Goldstein.

In response to the 2010 report, Gebert and Goldstein issued a warning to staff that the university’s reputation was at stake.

“When you’re entrusted with public funds, they assume you’ve got business processes in place to be able to be good custodians of it,” Gebert said in a March 10 interview with the Calgary Herald.

The council requested a proposal from the university on how it will rectify the identified problems, due March 31. While the proposal is closed to the public, U of C media relations associate director Grady Semmens assured the Gauntlet that steps are being taken to fix the problems. The warning towards staff and the university’s proposal submission are positive steps away from past financial mishaps.

Interview requests with Gebert and Goldstein went unanswered — hopefully they are saving their breath for when the proposal is approved in late April.

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