Medicine Hat College shuts down scandal-ridden program in China: Auditor General
Three offshore partnerships in China cancelled
Medicine Hat College is shutting down its scandal-ridden operations in China in response to an auditor general’s report, which found the school’s lax oversight of the program threatened the institution’s academic credentials.
Alberta auditor general Merwan Saher confirmed the program’s end Wednesday in the release of a follow-up audit to his initial audit from 2013.
Medicine Hat College has cancelled its three offshore partnerships in which students were taught in China. But it is still recruiting students to its Alberta campus.
Saher said the college has implemented all of his recommendations, including increased monitoring by the college’s board of its international education activities.
Saher said the school has also improved its contract management practices and introduced a new travel and expense policy designed to curb abuse.
“These changes have improved the college’s transparency and accountability for the results of its international education activities,” Saher wrote.
In his July 2013 report, Saher found serious financial and academic irregularities with a joint program the school offered with E&A College in China.
Saher revealed Medicine Hat College staff did not know what non-credit courses E&A College offered, who taught them, or even if the students existed. In several instances, students enrolled at the Chinese campus received passing grades, even though they had failed their midterm or final exams - a violation of Medicine Hat College policy.
None of E&A College’s 877 students were registered in Medicine Hat College’s system.
No criminal activity
But although Saher said Medicine Hat College had left itself “highly susceptible” to fraud, his office found no evidence of criminal activity.
At the time, the school’s registrar, Craig Wood, said the college had retained legal counsel and was still considering asking the police to investigate. He said while he was confident all 877 students were real, and not manufactured as part of a fraud, the college was still “not 100 per cent positive.”
Saher’s 2013 report also uncovered financial irregularities related to Medicine Hat College’s payments to a private Chinese company, Qinhuangdao Rands Electronic Co. Ltd. The college had hired the company in 2008 to provide non-credit programs to its students in China.
One red flag was a 2010-2011 invoice for the company, which was created at Medicine Hat College, not in China. And at one point, $212,000 was nearly deposited into the personal bank account of Rands’ president.
The $212,000 payment was cancelled before it could be deposited. Saher confirmed Wednesday in his follow-up audit that Medicine Hat College has paid Rands the full amount.
The school has also tightened control over its previously lax travel policies.
In his 2013 report, Saher questioned several international trips taken by staff over a three-year period. Auditors found documentation didn’t show the reasons for the trips or what was supposed to be achieved.
The 34 trips cost more than $325,000. In comparison, the school’s 2013-2014 budget for international education activities was only $1.5 million, approximately three per cent of the college’s overall budget.