Grant cash covers less than half of Highbury College principal's £150,000 credit card spending despite claim

LESS than half of a college principal’s £150,000 credit card spend has been covered by grants and funding despite her claim income accounted for a ‘sizeable amount’.

By Ben Fishwick
Monday, 18th November 2019, 4:34 pm
Updated Monday, 18th November 2019, 5:43 pm
Highbury College principal Stella Mbubaegbu CBE
Highbury College principal Stella Mbubaegbu CBE

Principal Stella Mbubaegbu CBE is thought not to be in her office at Highbury College after the FE Commissioner put the Cosham institution into supervised college status.

The News and FEWeek revealed how Ms Mbubaegbu, who retires next year, spent the cash between 2014-2018 at high-end London hotels, first-class flights around the world and £356 at an upmarket restaurant.

Defending the spend in a blog post in September, Ms Mbubaegbu said: ‘A sizeable amount of the expenses was reimbursed to the college through grants or other funding and indeed some of the expenses were to cover travel and CPD events for other staff, but paid from the principal’s budget.’

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But records obtained by The News under freedom of information law shows just £66,540 was covered by such funding between 2014-18.

About £60,000 was made up of management fees paid to the college by Highbury Burton Saudia Arabia - a joint venture in Jeddah between the college and one in South Derbyshire.

The Association of Colleges India paid in £6,000 to the college in 2016.

Payments were made for 37 days’ work and expenses attending the joint venture’s board meetings. The group was previously called the Nescot Consortium LLP.

Another £40,200 was received for 25 days’ management fees and Saudi-linked expenses but this was outside of the 2014-18 credit card bill period, the college said.

A spokeswoman said: ‘I can confirm all Nescot/Aoc India fees went directly into the College’s account.

‘Stella did not receive any of the Nescot management fees in addition to her salary.’

Ms Mbubaegbu did not comment via the college.

Last week the chairman of governors, Tim Mason, stepped aside for the FE Commissioner to put in a national lead to strengthen governance at the institution.

Sector newspaper FEWeek revealed confidential board minutes showed that the college could be expecting to receive just £872,000 of a £1.4m debt it is owed by a Nigerian state over a secretive technical education project.

On the Nigerian money, a Highbury College spokeswoman said: ‘Once the proceeding have concluded I am confident we will release a full statement.’

FEWeek said confidential board minutes from May said: ‘The college’s counsel were able to agree that between now and June the CRSG’s counsel will liaise with the ministry of justice, including the attorney general, to make a case for settlement to the governor for the admitted sum of £872,00.

‘If those efforts are successful and a settlement agreement is signed, then we can proceed to request the court to enter a consent judgment based on the terms of the settlement agreement.’