No more official car for UU Executive Board

Foto: DUB

The travel costs of president Anton Pijpers were high in 2018 (124,343 euros), but not unjust or inexpedient. Such is the conclusion of the Education Inspectorate in a report that was published on Thursday. The costs declared all fall within the legal limits and conform to the agreements made between Pijpers and the Supervisory Board. Still, in its report, the Inspection calls for a reduction of the travel costs made by the Executive Board.

The report was sent to Parliament on Thursday, September 12. In an attached letter, minister Van Engelshoven confirms the Education Inspectorate’s findings that the president’s declarations conform to the current regulations. Asked whether she’s planning to take additional measures to make the regulations for declarations of travel costs stricter, she responded that she first awaits a follow-up report of the Inspectorate about adhering to the declaration regulations of all universities based on the 2018 annual reports. This report is expected to be published late 2019.

Too late in the day
The Education Inspectorate’s call to reduce the travel costs, comes too late in the day. The board had already set in motion ways to reduce the costs, says UU spokesperson Maarten Post. “Utrecht University cancelled the lease contract for the official car and driver as of September 1. For transportation of the president, the UU will, like most other universities, use a taxi instead.” Additionally, Pijpers moved to Utrecht this summer, which will also help to significantly reduce the travel costs.

Other measures had already been taken earlier, because the board, Post says, had realised the travel costs were indeed high. Late 2018, for instance, the UU had already cancelled the lease contract of the other official car, after one of the drivers had retired. The Executive Board also promised that in 2019, it would not surpass 100,000 euros in travel reimbursement for each of the board’s members combined, and that a study would be conducted on how the travel costs could be reduced further, starting in 2020. In 2018, the board had declared 180,815 euros for domestic travel.

No private trips
As by far the largest share of these costs were declared on behalf of Pijpers, the study – as ordered by minister Ingrid van Engelshoven with the Education Inspectorate – focused mainly on him. Cause for the study were parliamentary questions posed by Zihni Özdil. He felt the travel costs were unacceptable.

For the study, the Inspectorate used conversations with Pijpers, the president of the Supervisory Board, and documents like the registration of trips for the two official cars the UU had in 2018. “Our check of the from and to destinations of the official cars and taxi trips did not show anything that suggested these journeys were made for private purposes.” And in cases of trips in which commutes or official business purposes were combined with private visits, Pijpers used his own transportation. In 2018, this happened around twenty to thirty times.