Liberal cabinet minister Amrik Virk linked to Kwantlen compensation scandal

Directors at Kwantlen Polytechnic University hoped to use funds intended for student bursaries and awards to pay the school’s president $100,000 more than the salary he was allowed under provincial law, emails obtained by The Province show.

The idea was discussed by several members of KPU’s board of governors — including Amrik Virk, who was vice-chair of the board before becoming B.C.’s minister of advanced education — according to a 2011 email by board chair Gordon Schoberg to the university secretary.

The idea appears to have been rejected after the president of the B.C. Association of Institutes and Universities (BCAIU) offered an opinion that using money from the Kwantlen Foundation to get around a salary cap would, if discovered, result in an “extremely negative reaction” from government.

On Thursday at the B.C. Legislature, Opposition MLAs tried to connect Virk to the KPU executive compensation scandal during Question Period, suggesting that as vice-chair he should have known what was happening. Virk responded by saying the matter is being investigated by the Public Sector Employers’ Council (PSEC) Secretariat.

PSEC oversees compensation plans for executive employees at public institutions to ensure they fall under a government-mandated salary cap.

Advanced education critic David Eby tabled two emails Thursday in the Legislature that appear to show KPU executives discussing the practice of hiding wages above the cap by characterizing them as other expenses.

In one, KPU human resources manager Ellen Hill explains to an unknown recipient that she omitted references to former vice-president Anne Lavack’s annual research allowance and administrative leave in her employment contract, because “her compensation level is such that it requires contract disclosure” to PSEC.

The email obtained by The Province is dated Nov. 8, 2011, when KPU was recruiting for a new president. In it, vice-president of finance Gordon Lee asked Ruth Wittenberg, president of the BCAIU, for an opinion on how the government might react to an idea for the “new president to be compensated up to the PSEC limit by the university and a supplementary amount ($100,000) by the Kwantlen Polytechnic University Foundation.”

The foundation’s priority, according to its website, is to support students with scholarships, bursaries and awards.

Wittenberg’s negative response appeared to sink the idea. Board chair Schoberg asked the university secretary to forward Wittenberg’s “sobering” opinion to “Amrik and Scott, since we spoke about this last Friday.”

Earlier this month, Eby questioned Virk about $100,000 in “payments to senior (KPU) administrators by recording them in their financial reports as payments to suppliers of goods and services.

KPU’s financial report for the year ending March 31, 2013, lists remuneration and expenses for new president Alan Davis totalling $161,773, but also includes a separate entry indicating he was paid $50,000 as a “supplier of goods and services.”

KPU issued a statement on behalf of the university and its board of governors saying it “welcomes” the PSEC review and is “co-operating fully.”

Asked for comment by The Province, Virk provided an emailed statement saying “government takes the matter of executive compensation very seriously … The (PSEC) review is currently underway and is looking at the payments themselves, the public disclosure of those payments, and whether the compensation was consistent with government’s compensation guidelines.”

Eby said the review should be passed to the Auditor General.

“I think there are employees at Kwantlen who want to come forward… but they’re not going to be comfortable coming forward to a (PSEC) investigator who reports to Mr. Virk’s colleague the minister of finance.”

– From the Vancouver Province. Read more Province stories HERE.

Just Posted

Langley’s Georgia Ellenwood is Olympics bound

She has effectively qualified for the 2020 games based on international ranking

Campaign against hospital parking fees is gathering momentum: organizer

Gary Hee said the bid to eliminate ER parking fees will be his last petition campaign

United voice calls for more senior services in Aldergrove

‘The people here deserve more’ says founder of the local Seniors Resource Fair

Aldergrove’s water park opens to public at discounted rates

Though the pool remains closed, the Township has decided to charge a toonie for admission

Fraser Valley pup trained in Aldergrove co-stars in A Dog’s Journey

Film premiers this weekend, starting Friday in Canadian theatres

UPDATE: B.C. pilot killed in Honduras plane crash

The crash happened in the Roatan Islands area, according to officials

Raptors beat Bucks 118-112 in 2OT thriller

Leonard has 36 points as Toronto cuts Milwaukee’s series lead to 2-1

‘Teams that win are tight’: B.C. Lions search for chemistry at training camp

The Lions added more than 50 new faces over the off-season, from coaching staff to key players

Rescue crews suspend search for Okanagan kayaker missing for three days

71-year-old Zygmunt Janiewicz was reported missing Friday

B.C. VIEWS: Reality of our plastic recycling routine exposed

Turns out dear old China wasn’t doing such a great job

Structure fire destroys Surrey tire shop

RCMP have closed Fraser Highway down to traffic from 152 Street to 88 Avenue

Carbon dioxide at highest levels for over 2.5 million years, expert warns of 100 years of disruption

CO2 levels rising rapidly, now higher than at any point in humanity’s history

Multi-vehicle collision on highway in Chilliwack

Accident involves several vehicles, in the westbound lanes says Drive BC

Man dies after being hit by car in East Vancouver

The driver involved is cooperating with police

Most Read