NDP questions Amrik Virk over $1.1 million payments to university executives

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Victoria: In a report on post-secondary executive compensation NDP is claiming that Liberal Minister of Advanced Education Amrik Virk was involved in a scheme to defeat government compensation rules while at Kwantlen Polytechnic University, and is now trying to cover up further violations of the province’s compensation rules by refusing the public access to the rules themselves.

“Amrik Virk promised in the legislature that he’d release the compensation caps for all post-secondary schools in the province. Two months later, he wrote to say he’d changed his mind,” said New Democrat advanced education critic David Eby.

 

“When we directly contacted the government agency that enforces these caps, they gave us the caps for three universities. But then ten weeks later we couldn’t get the agency to confirm the caps they’d just given us and they’re refusing to respond to our correspondence.”

 

When the caps obtained by the New Democrats are compared to compensation reports made by three universities to government, every university reported paying total compensation for their presidents in excess of the provincial caps, at one school totalling almost $50,000 in apparent overpayments over three years.

 

Of 18 executives reported by universities in the time period examined, 14 were identified as receiving payments in excess of the provided caps, for a total of more than $1.1 million.

 

“After discovering these significant gaps between what was paid and what we were told the caps were, we wrote to the head of the agency responsible for enforcing compensation rules, the Public Sector Employers Council, to demand an explanation and to formally request the caps in writing for every university and college in B.C.,” said Eby. “The silence from Mr. Virk and the agency has been deafening.”

 

Members of the public are also being prevented from accessing the compensation rules. A recent graduate of Capilano University, Jennifer O’Keefe, also called PSEC to request the caps for her school following an announcement of cuts to key arts programs there. PSEC refused to release the caps.

 

“Clearly it wasn’t enough for the Minister to try to cover up extra compensation at Kwantlen,” said Eby. “Now he’s trying to ‘Virk’ the compensation rules for the entire province.”

 

As recently as last week, Liberal Minister of Finance Mike de Jong assured British Columbians that the government has amplified and enforced the rules around executive compensation. Clearly, that is not the case. The Auditor General was included on the Official Opposition’s correspondence to PSEC, and continues to review the matter.

 

In response the NDP report on post-secondary executive compensation The Ministry of Advanced Education has released following statement from Minister Amrik Virk, “The critic is wrong as he is confusing salary ranges for executives with total compensation caps for presidents of public post-secondary institutions.

 

“The critic’s misinterpretation is intended to make it appear that these individuals are being paid outside the compensation they should be paid.

 

“Total compensation for presidents is capped, and includes base salary, benefits and pension. Amounts can fluctuate year to year due to increases in benefit and pension costs beyond the employer’s control, and one-time payments such as unused vacation payouts.

 

“Vice-presidents, and all other excluded employees, have a salary range approved by Public Sector Employers’ Council that does not include additional benefits and pension, which can account for approximately 20%. As with presidents, these amounts can vary year to year due to increases in items beyond the employer’s control.

 

“A number of measures are in place to ensure executive compensation guidelines are met and that compensation is fully disclosed.

 

“Public post-secondary board chairs have provided signed attestations verifying that compensation has been paid within an approved plan and disclosed according to the guidelines.”