Million Dollar Baby

Concordia to Contract External Audit of Severance Packages

A previous version of this article failed to mention that both Ted Nowak and Saad Zubair were cleared of the original charges by Concordia University. They were then presented with reference letters by the university stating exemplary service. The Link regrets the error.

If you were an employee of Concordia University who left between September 2009 and December 2010, parting may have been a sweet sorrow.

Following an Access to Information Request by Le Journal de Montreal , Concordia’s Board of Governors voted on Friday to publically announce that it will be hiring external auditors to look at $2.4 million in severance packages and buyouts paid to five former administrators.

That amount does not include the total of $1.7 million paid out to Concordia’s last two departing presidents, Judith Woodsworth and Claude Lajeunesse, upon their dismissals, however.

Although Concordia employs internal auditors, university spokesperson Chris Mota said that, “[Concordia] President [Frederick Lowy] chose to recommend to the Board that we engage external expertise who specialize in this type of process review.”

Concordia has not yet chosen an external auditor for the contract. Costing an estimated $25,000, the audit should be completed by the end of June.

Concordia Student Union President Lex Gill, while supporting the external review, claimed that the large amounts paid to former employees is further evidence that impending tuition hikes are unjust.

“An external audit is absolutely necessary in these kinds of practices,” she said.

“From my perspective, this is an issue of management and HR, and it getting away from people in an unacceptable way. It’s shameful for the university to be asking the Quebec government for more money out of students’ pockets when, in a 16-month period, they paid out $2.4 million in severance packages and buyouts.”

Two of the severance package recipients are Ted Nowak and Saad Zubair, internal auditors who lost their positions in September 2009 after concealing $250 in meal expenditures that they had charged to the auditing department’s expense account from then-president Judith Woodsworth.

Woodsworth, who was dismissed from the school in December 2010, was herself paid over $700,000 in a severance package.

After filing a labour dispute, it was shown that Woodsworth herself had signed off on five lunches that were charged to subordinates’ expense accounts. Nowak received over $600,000, while Zubair was given almost $640,000. The two were eventually cleared of the charges and were given reference letters from the university.

Board of Governors student representative AJ West considered it unfortunate the information wasn’t released sooner, considering the BoG has made very public statements about their transparency efforts since December.

“It’s disappointing that it had to come to an Access to Information Request [for] the university to release this information,” said West. “It always looks better to have an external auditor.”

_ —with files from Adam Kovac_