The University of California Regents decided to divest funds from several companies with business ties to Sudan and took steps to “improve accountability” for the UC’s wage practices during their meeting on March 15 and 16 at UCLA.

In response to what Congress has identified as genocide in the Darfur region of Sudan, the Regents voted to divest all UC investment shares from nine companies known to have business relationships with the Sudanese government. The UC is the first major public university system to divest from the country.

UC will remove funds from Bharat Heavy Electricals Ltd., China Petroleum & Chemical Corp. (Sinopec), OAO “Tatneft,” Videocon Industries Ltd., Nam Fatt Corp., Oil & Natural Gas Co. Ltd., PECD Bhd., PetroChina Company Ltd. and Sudan Telecom Co. Ltd. (Sudatel). The divestment includes removing dollars from shares in combined index funds.

The total dollar value removed from these companies will not be known until the financial transactions involved in the divestments have been completed, a UC press release said. However, no date was given for when the divestment will commence or conclude.

Meanwhile, UC President Robert Dynes announced to the Regents that the University will be adopting new measures of controlling spending for improvement projects involving the residences and offices of UC chancellors and of the president. The policy change comes after recent scandals – originally uncovered by the San Francisco Chronicle – involving the compensation of University executives.

For future infrastructure improvements, the Regents decided that UC chancellors must seek approval from the UC president if they wish to spend more than $25,000. For projects involving the president’s office or residence above this same amount, the president must also seek approval from the Regents.

The Regents also attempted to make progress on implementing “transparency reforms” regarding UC compensation and payment practices. The Regents received “oral status reports” of reform efforts currently underway, including a 10-year audit of the compensation of senior managers, being conducted by international finance and accounting firm Price Waterhouse Coopers.

In addition, the Regents’ Task Force on UC Compensation, Accountability and Transparency detailed UC compensation policies and practices to the Regents at the meeting, and the Bureau of State Audits presented its audit of the University’s disclosure and compensation practices.

The Regents also reviewed two reports outlining compensation for principal officers of the Regents and the University.

Chairman of the Board of Regents Gerald L. Parsky issued a statement saying the Regents, in accordance with the new transparency policies, plan to establish better business practices by reorganizing the Office of the President.

In an effort to “strengthen the business practices and management of the University,” Parsky’s statement said, the Board of Regents will consider at its next meeting creating two new positions in the Office of the President – one for a chief operating officer to serve an administrative function, and one position for a chief financial officer, who would take responsibility for overseeing nonacademic tasks within the Office.

Along with divesting funds and investigating new policies, the Regents appointed George H. Miller as interim director for the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, an institution with which the University has a contract until Sept. 30, 2007. Miller has been a UC employee for 34 years.

To meet the public’s demands for more transparency in the payment practices of high-ranking UC employees, the Regents announced that Miller will receive an annual salary of $369,700 – the same salary as his predecessor, Michael Anastasio.

The next Regents meeting will be held May 17 and 18 at UC San Francisco.