La Trobe University has referred matters concerning the National Centre for Hellenic Studies and Research (NCHSR/EKEME) to the Victorian Auditor-General’s Office (VAGO).

La Trobe University decided to close down EKEME at the end of last year. The university then announced its intention to replace it with a new Research Centre for Contemporary Greek Studies.

According to well informed sources, the university has sent VAGO an extensive file with matters that include financial as well as administrative issues regarding EKEME that it is asking to be investigated.

However, when contacted by Neos Kosmos English Edition (NKEE) a spokesperson for VAGO refused to either confirm or deny if an investigation was being conducted.

The same spokesperson clarified that it is common practice for VAGO not to comment on such matters with the exception of only a few cases. But La Trobe University has confirmed that the matter has been referred to VAGO.

NKEE is in a position to know that one of the cases referred for further inquiry concerns the funding by the Australian Research Council of a Linkage Project that was proposed by EKEME.

The project under the title Speaking Greek in Diaspora: language, contact survival and maintenance was to compare and contrast the way Greek is spoken in Australia, Brazil and Greece.

One of the Chief Investigators of this Linkage Project was the then Director of EKEME, Dr Anastasios Tamis.

The Australian Research Council had approved the funding in the amount of $487,353 to be paid out in yearly installments starting in 2007 and ending in 2011.

One of the prerequisites to secure funding for Linkage Projects from the Australian Research Council is to assure financing from other collaborating and/or partner organisations.

In this case as partners were presented the Greek Ministry of National Education and Religious Affairs, the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Consulate General of Greece in Melbourne.

The Project was cancelled after the Australian Research Council suspended all funding after finding EKEME to be in breach of its funding agreement presenting “flawed, misleading and deceptive” information.

This information relates to Dr Tamis speaking on behalf of the Greek State.

The Ambassador of Greece in Australia George Zois confirmed to NKEE that the project revealed procedural improprieties and that is why the Greek government ceased all funding of EKEME. “Indeed the University made as aware of these improprieties and that’s why we stopped funding EKEME,” Mr Zois said.

However, he clarified that the issue was not as to whether the Greek State was informed of this Linkage Project but rather that Dr Tamis was appearing to be representing the Greek State.

La Trobe University proceeded with an extensive academic review of EKEME for the last five years in October 2008.

The findings of the review were seriously critical of the academic work produced in EKEME as well as of the administrative practices followed by the Centre in general and of its then Director Dr Tamis more specifically.

The review board had also found financial inconsistencies and recommended further investigation.

La Trobe University based its decision on this review to shut down EKEME and to replace it with a new Centre.

NKEE contacted Dr Tamis who stressed that the “file on EKEME has closed” and that there is no issue for any further investigation of EKEME.

“As far as I am concerned the file of EKEME has closed, the Chancellor for La Trobe University has confirmed that this is the case” said Dr Tamis.

He went on to say, “It is a common practice for any university department, or school, that closes  to send the relevant files to VAGO.”

However, a spokesperson for La Trobe University disputed Dr Tamis’ assertion and stressed that the referral of matters to VAGO regarding EKEME is done for specific  purposes and is “definitely not a common practice”.

Meanwhile, the week before last the University advertised the position of Director for the new Research Centre for Contemporary Greek Studies that will be under the auspices of the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences at La Trobe University.

As highlighted in the position description some of the aims of the Centre are “to be the leading Australian Centre for Academic research into matters relating to contemporary Greece and people of Greek heritage wherever they might live; to use its research activities to contribute to the teaching of Contemporary Greek Studies delivered by the Greek Studies program in the School of Historical and European Studies.”

The position of the Director will attract a remuneration package of over $150,000 including superannuation. It will be a full time position for a fixed five year term.

As one of the primary objectives of the position described for the director is to to place the Centre “in the position to ensure its research and financial success beyond its initial 5 year establishment phase.”