A delay has hit an investigation into whether payments to the former principal of Aberdeen University breached charity law.
The Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator (OSCR) confirmed that the coronavirus pandemic had impacted the timing of its inquiry into the departure of Sir Ian Diamond.
A separate probe by the Scottish Funding Council (SFC) concluded in February that Aberdeen University effectively “incurred the cost of two principals” over a financial year as a result of an arrangement with Sir Ian, and that there had been “no documented assessment of value for money”.
The university was ordered to repay £119,000 of its grant, and on Wednesday it revealed it had asked Sir Ian to reimburse the ancient institution.
Sir Ian is currently serving as Britain’s national statistician, having become the head of the UK Statistics Authority after leaving the Granite City.
The two investigations were launched last year after the university’s accounts for 2017-18 showed that Sir Ian was being paid £601,000 – including a salary of £282,000, pension contributions to the value of £30,000, and contractual notice period payment and related expenses of £289,000.
It emerged that, under an agreement struck between the university and Sir Ian, the former principal only triggered his year-long notice period and payment at the moment he was succeeded by George Boyne in the summer of 2018, despite announcing his retirement plans a year earlier.
The arrangement meant that the university was paying two principals for a year.
I hope Sir Ian will agree that the staff and students at Aberdeen University should not lose out.”
OSCR has previously said that “the focus of our inquiry is whether in making the payments to Professor Diamond the university’s charity trustees met their legal duties to act in the interests of the charity and to act with the required level of care and diligence”.
On Thursday a spokesman for the charity regulator said: “The current conditions, which affect OSCR as well as others involved in the inquiry, have led to some delay in finalising this work but we are still working to conclude our inquiry and publish a report as soon as we can.”
Meanwhile, north-east Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald has backed the university’s decision to ask Sir Ian to repay the money.
“When the university repaid £119,000 to the SFC following the review it effectively meant that it was the staff and students that were paying for the mistakes made by the previous leadership,” he said.
“It’s entirely reasonable therefore that the university, under new leadership, is attempting to recoup the money from the former principal.
“I hope Sir Ian will agree that the staff and students at Aberdeen University should not lose out.”
Sir Ian has not responded to requests for comment.