Call for Maribor University Chancellor to Resign over Payments Scandal

By , 26 Sep 2019, 11:23 AM Politics
Chancellor Zdravko Kačič Chancellor Zdravko Kačič

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STA, 25 September 2019 - Responding to the scandal involving millions in contentions payments at the University of Maribor, the SVIZ teachers' trade union urged Chancellor Zdravko Kačič to consider resigning for failing to immediately present all the facts to the public and notify the police of potential irregularities.

By resigning, Kačič would facilitate a process in which the payment of some EUR 50 million would have to be cleared up, the union said on Wednesday.

"It is completely unacceptable that the chancellor of the public university Zdravko Kačič did not immediately notify oversight institutions and law enforcement of the findings of the audits into fees payments and of other irregularities which point to suspicion of crime and liability for payment of damages," it said in a release.

The union believes that by failing to act on time, Kačič, chancellor since June 2018, is responsible for major damage the scandal has caused to the country's second-largest public university and its staff.

The SVIZ recalled that a few years ago, the Supreme Court had ruled the university's pay system was unsuitable, failing to remunerate staff in line with academic titles.

The university thus broke the law and saved a lot of money on the back of many of its junior staff, while its elite has been receiving indecent fees, the SVIZ said.

Responding to the appeal, Kačič said he had acted as soon as he received the report, so there was no need for his resignation. "I didn't 'misplace' the document, forget about it or conceal it ... but immediately started dealing with it," he said in a release.

He reiterated that he checked the document, which is neither an audit report nor a legal or expert opinion, on 20 June 2018, the day he took office, then talked to auditors to discuss reviewing the financial transactions, presented it to deans in January and then handed it to university members for comments.

"I kept the university board up to date on all steps and handed all the papers on 9 May to an independent institution for a comprehensive review and a final audit report, which will serve as a basis for the university to take action," the chancellor explained, adding the final report is expected next month.

The SVIZ trade union also called on Education Minister Jernej Pikalo to ask the Court of Audit to review the university's financial operations.

Also responding to the scandal, the VSS trade union of university teachers said it expected Kačič to present documents proving the payments were justified and to sanction the cases when staff had abused office for personal gain.

The VSS urged the state as the founder of the university to change legislation and improve oversight to prevent such cases and to enable science and university education to develop even if they brought no short-term profits.

The head of the VVS shop at the university, Marija Javornik Krečič, said university staff was both disappointed and shocked at the controversial fees.

While the media report about payments worth millions of euro, the trade union had to fight legal battles for proper pay of many of university staff, she said.

The alleged abuse is not just a result of vague rules, but of their disrespect coupled with wild corporate logic penetrating universities and some university teachers appropriating certain faculties and areas of research.

Yesterday, Kačič came out strongly against Friday's media report questioning around EUR 50 million euro in payments to its professors through works contracts.

He said the TV Slovenija report was based on incomplete facts from two reports rather than on audits as stated by TV Slovenija.

The chancellor said he had not been acquainted with the 2017 report by the previous leadership, while he knew about the second one from February 2018.

While stressing that neither had found any irregularities, but merely pointed to potential risks, Kačič said he would present the second report once it was reviewed by an independent institution and became final. Only then would the university take action if necessary.

As for the sum of EUR 50 million, Kačič said it referred to the works contracts for the entire period between 2010 and 2016.

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