THE principal of Highbury College has insisted she is not a ‘flagrant spend-thrift’ and none of a £150,000 spend on her corporate credit card was for personal gain.
Stella Mbubaegbu spent hundreds of pounds on luxury headphones, first class flights abroad and more than £350 on a leaving dinner for four people at a Michelin-starred restaurant.
The News published details of her credit card spend between 2014-2018 today after FEWeek obtained the data in a year-long freedom of information battle.
This newspaper asked the college about the expenditure but the institution refused to detail why stays at high-end hotels and the purchase of first-class flights abroad were allowed.
She insisted she has not ‘hidden anything’ from the board of governors, and a ‘sizeable amount’ of expenses was reimbursed to the college through funding or grants. The News asked on Wednesday if any expenses had been reimbursed but the college declined to answer.
READ MORE: Highbury principal’s college credit card bill hits £150,000 in five years – and reveals string of receipts for first-class flights and five-star hotels
Today in an email to staff Ms Mbubaegbu has said the story attempted to ‘paint a picture of me as a flagrant spend-thrift using college funds for my own personal gain’.
She added: ‘This is not the case, and knowing how stories can be created and twisted, I am taking this opportunity to provide a context for the matters raised in the article.’
Ms Mbubaegbu said her international travel - including 30 flights, with prices ranging from £200 to more than £6,000 - were all for the college’s benefit. It runs a scheme in Saudi Arabia.
The principal said her international work had brought in £2.5m income for the college at a time when there had been ‘unprecedented cuts’. The college is fighting to reclaim £1.4m from a Nigerian state.
She said: ‘Over the last four years the College has earned in the region of £2.5m of additional income from international business development activities, income that has been vital in protecting both student services and the quality of education afforded to our students in a time of significant and unprecedented cuts to government-sponsored programmes.
‘All of this work has been undertaken with the sole aim of enabling Highbury to flourish. In its entirety, the expenditure incurred furthered the operational and strategic goals of the college.’
Ms Mbubaegbu has not provided any explanation of the Bang & Olufsen headphones bought in 2016 for around £430. A dishwasher bought from Curry’s was for the college, she said. The college refused to explain this when asked on Thursday.
The principal added: ‘The expenses referred to in the article were approved and authorised correctly and are also subject to independent audit in accordance with college procedures.
‘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. I have not hidden anything from the Highbury board or the regulators and it is unfortunate and unfair that this story suggests otherwise.’