Syed charged 50K in jewellery

Former University College of the Cayman Islands President Hassan Syed charged more than US$50,000 of jewellery on the credit cards he was issued by the university.

The information was included in a report sent from Auditor General Dan Duguay to the UCCI Board of Governors on 17 April of this year. A copy of that report, which was stamped ‘draft for discussion’ has been obtained by the Caymanian Compass.

In addition to jewellery, Mr. Syed used his UCCI credit cards to pay for thousands of dollars worth of goods at department stores in Toronto and London, for furniture, spa treatments and even for a week-long stay at a villa in France that he purchased at a Rotary Club auction in May 2007.

Mr. Duguay’s report quantified the amount of credit card transactions that were ‘seemingly inconsistent with the operational activities of the UCCI’.

‘Based on our preliminary review, an estimated US$294,000 of credit card transactions could not be adequately substantiated as UCCI’s expenditure,’ the report stated.

However, some of the unsubstantiated credit card charges were subsequently identified as personal expenses to Syed and deducted from his salary.

During the 16-month period between December 2006 and March 2008, the UCCI accounts department deducted US$119,390.18 from Syed’s salary due. During the time, Syed’s salary was US$13,412 per month – US$160,944 per year – although is appears he received a $3,466 bonus in December 2006.

When the Auditor General’s office reviewed the expenditure of UCCI for the financial statements concerning the year ended 30 June 2007, it discovered the unsubstantiated transactions and requested UCCI supply the necessary support records.

Initial statements supplied by UCCI were missing the words ‘more’ and ‘bottom’ to indicate their completeness. The Audit Office subsequently requested certified copies of the credit card statements directly from the bank.

‘Upon receipt of these certified copies from the bank, our concerns regarding the missing pages were confirmed,’ the auditor general’s report stated. ‘The words ‘more’ and ‘bottom’ were now seen on the certified copies.’

The Audit Office’s analysis indicated that the pages missing from the credit card statements originally submitted to them by UCCI had in excess of US$119,000 worth of transactions, including many charges relating to jewellery stores, restaurants, airlines, hotels, furniture stores, liquor stores and spas.

Salary advance

In addition to the unsubstantiated credit card charges, the report states Syed was given a salary advance of $71,472 on 17 January 2008. The advance was to be repaid by deducting $3,000 per month from his salary and that deduction commenced the following month.

However, the auditor general’s report points out that a deduction of only $3,000 per month would have taken two years to repay the advance and Syed’s contract only ran through July 2009, six months before the advance would have been paid off.

‘There is a risk of exposure to loss if the contract is not renewed,’ the report stated.

As it turned out, Syed resigned from UCCI on 12 May, 2008, citing personal health reasons. He later turned up working at Centennial College in Toronto, a position he took up in early June. However, he resigned that post when news of what had occurred at UCCI reached the administration of Centennial College.

The auditor general’s 17 April report does not state whether any more than US$6,000 – being the deductions made in February and March 2008 – was repaid toward the salary advance.

Consultancy fees charged

The auditor general’s report also details CI$51,750 in consultancy fees Syed charged for services rendered to the Civil Service Collage.

In total, Syed charged the Civil Service College for 345 hours at CI$150 per hour for consultancy work relating to the set up of the institution, which is owned by the Portfolio of Civil Service and administered jointly by a director recruited by UCCI and the president of UCCI.

The auditor general’s report stated there was no supporting evidence of any checks and balances of the work purportedly done by Syed and the time it purportedly took.

In addition, the report asks if there were any arrangements made in the first place for consultancy services to be provided the UCCI president, who ultimately charged fees as if he were working in a personal capacity.

In the end, Syed did not receive the full amount of his fees in cash for consultancy services because UCCI deducted from his invoice the amount of $42,914, which it had identified as personal expenses incurred in September and October 2007. Those personal expenses included CI$22,870 in bank drafts Syed ordered, CI$5,479 in credit card expenses, plus CI$14,564 in rent.

ANGEL system

In addition to charging the Civil Service College a CI$7,500 consultancy fee to set up the ANGEL on-line learning system, Syed submitted invoices for reimbursement of US$288,484 he purportedly paid for the computer hardware to support the system.

In reconciling the invoices and reimbursements, the auditor general’s report stated it appeared the supplying company was overpaid for the system and that it was awaiting an explanation about the overpayment.

Contacted for comment about this matter on Saturday, Mr. Duguay declined to comment.