Part 3: Challenges in completing this additional assurance work

Report to the Council: Additional assurance work on travel expenses, redundancy and severance payments.

We have had a number of difficulties completing our work. The information Wintec sent at commencement was incomplete and contained inaccuracies for both broad areas that we looked at.

3.1 Travel expenses

We have concerns about the completeness of the information available and therefore we are unable to provide assurance that we have seen all supporting evidence.

The period that we reviewed goes back a number of years. Wintec has experienced some turnover in key roles, which has resulted in the loss of institutional knowledge. During this period Wintec also decommissioned the financial system that was in place in the early years of our review. We asked for the financial system for 2009 and 2010 to be reconstructed to enable us to access the source data. Wintec worked to reproduce the information, however, due to the age of the system this is not in a format that has been useful for our work. The itineraries booked through the travel agent were also not available to corroborate the extent of the trips. We have therefore built up a picture of the travel undertaken in these years from a range of other sources, including p-card statements, expense claims, and agent invoices. This has been a huge task and has impacted on the timeframes and costs of our work.

In the early years of travel to China, Wintec used an agent to assist them on the ground in China (the China Agent). There was a practice for the China Agent to pay for some of the costs incurred in China and then invoice Wintec for reimbursement of those expenses. Wintec was able to locate some but not all key information relating to the China Agent’s invoices for 2009, 2010, and 2013. This documentation is important for understanding what expenses were incurred and by whom.

There were situations where, even though we were able to identify that travel was undertaken by certain people, we were not able to identify any expenses incurred in relation to or by them or the approval of those expenses.

Given these difficulties, and despite our best efforts at reconstructing the information for our work, we remain concerned that the travel expenditure reviewed within these years is incomplete.

With the implementation of new financial systems in 2012, Wintec has been able to provide more robust source data from which we have been able to compile relevant itineraries for our review of the 2013 and 2017 years.

3.2 Redundancy and severance payments

At the beginning of our work, Wintec provided a list of all redundancy and severance payments that fell within the specified period. Through our work, we identified:

  • cases that should have been included in Wintec’s list but had not been;
  • cases that were included but should not have been; and
  • cases where the payment amount was inaccurately recorded.

This raises concerns about the integrity and completeness of the information Wintec had provided.

While we have made every effort to test all redundancy and severance payments, any payments processed through accounts payable and not coded as restructure costs may not have been identified. We have also observed a large number of payroll payments noted as lump sum payments. Having made enquiries of Wintec, these do not appear to be redundancy or severance related.2 We have therefore not reviewed all these payments.

2: For example, payments for: moderator fees; guest speaker fees; research income; on call allowance; Associate Teacher – lump sum at end of assignment.