News - February 11, 2016

Change at the helm at ESG after big losses

The Environment Sciences Group (ESG) suffered surprisingly big losses last year. As a result the director of operations and head of finances are being replaced.

Research institute Alterra Wageningen UR incurred a loss of over 3 million euros in 2015. The ESG chair group incurred a loss of over 1 million. These losses are ‘surprisingly big’, stated the ESG management on the intranet in 3 February.

As a result of the poor financial results, ESG’s director of operations Auke de Bruin resigned with immediate effect on 8 February. This followed ‘intensive consultations about the worrying financial situation with general director Bram de Vos and the executive board.’

De Bruin will be succeeded by Inge Grimm, now still director of operations in the Social Sciences Group (SSG). She will start at ESG on 1 March. The executive council, who made the appointment in consultation with De Vos, wanted to arrange the succession quickly to ensure ‘continuity in the operations at ESG so that the management is in a strong position to solve the problems.’

Marja Baljé, head of Finance & Control at ESG, resigned last Tuesday too. Baljé has been succeeded by Tjittra Basdew, who has worked for Wageningen UR in various acting roles since 2009 and as a controller for the SSG for the last two and a half years. She was previously brought in as an external consultant to analyse the finances at the ESG, and will now be acting manager there. Before De Vos can plan cutbacks he wants to have a sharp analysis of the reasons for the shortfalls.

ESG ended last year in the red for the third year in a row. De Vos wants to avoid a reorganization and achieve cutbacks through natural staff turnover, early retirements and helping staff to find other jobs.

The ESG’s big losses have put the science unit’s employee council on alert too. ‘Now we’ve got to prove our value as an employees’ council,’ says chair Paul Hinssen. ‘It is all hands on deck; what’s at stake is saving the organization.’

According to Hinssen there have been big improvements in the relationship between the management and the employees’ council of the science unit in the past year. ‘Just like the management, we want a healthy organization that books healthy results,’ says Hinssen. ‘We can see that the management is open and transparent, and is open to our ideas on improving the organization. That openness is encouraging.’ The council chair thinks ESG staff will need to take more initiative themselves to improve the institute’s research position. ‘There are 800 of us, we’ve got a lot of ideas about what can be improved, and it is important that these ideas come to the surface. The management is open to that.’