University of Sydney staff have been given written warnings and counselling as part of disciplinary action in response to a review of alleged inappropriate spending on corporate credit cards.
A spokeswoman for the University of Sydney said it had completed an investigation into 21 staff from the global student recruitment team for alleged financial misconduct.
"Those individuals were the subject of confidential disciplinary proceedings, whereby they were each asked to respond to the university's concerns about their behaviour," the spokeswoman said.
The investigation was completed on Friday and most staff have received notification of their individual outcomes.
"A number of members of staff were found to have engaged in unsatisfactory conduct, as a result of which disciplinary action, including counselling and written warnings, have been imposed," the spokeswoman said.
"There were a number of staff whose conduct was found not to amount to misconduct and no disciplinary action was imposed, but those staff were reminded of their obligations under the university's code of conduct and other relevant policies.
"There were also staff who were found not to have engaged in the alleged behaviour at all, and in respect of whom no further action will be taken."
The university said it would not comment on outcomes for individuals to protect their privacy and the confidentiality of the investigation process.
Internal documents reveal that individual spending items investigated included a $669 bill for a meal "predominantly alcohol" with staff and student ambassadors at the Opera Bar on January 8 last year. Expenditure items also included $446.89 on June 10, 2016, for food from Woolworths for an internal staff function, $399 spent for Bose travel headphones and $212.99 for new luggage.
Internal documents also suggest the student recruitment unit overspent its budget by more than half a million dollars just halfway through the academic year in 2017.
A staff member who spoke to Fairfax Media on the condition of anonymity said the student recruitment office had a reputation for spending lots of money on alcohol and international travel. Fluffy Duck cocktails were among alcoholic beverages served at Friday afternoon drinks on a ping pong table in the student recruitment office.
Another staff member has defended the spending, saying the student recruitment unit is a "high-performing team" that helps generate more than $1 billion in revenue each year. A "corporate mentality" was said to be encouraged at the university from the top down.
University rules were updated this year and allow $250 gift cards to be purchased as staff rewards, including alcohol.
A staff members said the previous policy allowed $250 gift vouchers for students, not staff.
A staff member said no apologies had been given to those found to have done nothing wrong.
“Unsatisfactory Conduct” includes falling victim of confusing, contradictory policies, hence the rewriting of many policies,” the staff member said.
“This has been poorly handled and caused a great deal of damage to staff morale.
“We hope that the time for aggressive and threatening attitude from the university is over and there might be some offers of goodwill towards staff.”