ATP was in the national news (in Dutch) last week because the former director of the Dutch branch of the travel agent stood trial in Amsterdam. He was accused of fraud and forgery.
Between 2007 and 2016 ATP had sent fake invoices containing false information such as false fees. Clients had paid too much for flights, hotel rooms and so on, writes the NOS public news broadcaster (in Dutch). The travel agent earned EUR 17.6 million on bumping up its margin, says the Public Prosecution Service. Other duped clients include the Ministry of Justice, KPMG and the DNB (Dutch central bank).
TU Delft invoices as burden of proof
Between 2010 and 2016, TU Delft had a contract with the business travel agent. “Before 2010, TU Delft staff phoned their chosen travel agent if they needed to travel for work. We wanted to both centralise the bookings and be able to quickly and easily see where our people were in the world in the event of an emergency,” says Procurement Manager Sander Heerbaart. After a European tender process, TU Delft chose ATP.
During the hearing, the Public Prosecution Service produced several invoices from ATP to TU Delft as evidence (in Dutch). These are invoices sent to five faculties in 2010, said a Public Prosecution Service spokesperson. Heerbaart may not mention any figures, but believes that TU Delft staff used ATP ‘a lot’.
Complaints about high prices
In an old newsletter from 2013 (in Dutch), the Faculty of Technology, Policy and Management (TPM) writes that its staff complained about the prices that ATP were charging for plane tickets. According to the Faculty, these were ‘unreasonably high in comparison to other suppliers’. While the newsletter stated that staff could approach the Procurement Department with complaints about ATP, Heerbaart says that he does not remember the complaints from 2013.
TU Financial compensation for TU Delft
The contract agreed between TU Delft and ATP was initially for three years, states an informationpage in Delta in 2009 (in Dutch), with an option to extend twice for one year. This means that TU Delft extended the contract with ATP even after receiving complaints from TPM. Heerbaart says that he cannot confirm this. “I do not know if the contract was extended, but you generally see extension options in this type of contract.”
According to Heerbaart, TU Delft first noted irregularities in the invoiced amounts in 2016. These irregularities led to several discussions being held with ATP in 2016 and 2017. Heerbaart explains that “The travel agent did not want a court case and it ultimately agreed to a financial settlement based on the irregularities found by TU Delft.” As the content of the contract is confidential, Heerbaart is unable to say the amount of the settlement.
The Public Prosecution Service is demanding a prison sentence of 16 months, of which eight months is a suspended sentence, for the previous director of the travel agent. It is also demanding ATP to be fined EUR 2 million, of which half is conditional. The judge will return a verdict next week. For Heerbaart “the 2017 issue for TU Delft has already been solved satisfactorily”.