HEC ‘clarifies audit objections’ on HEDP

Refutes criticism of World Bank-funded project from netizens


APP March 31, 2021

ISLAMABAD:

Higher Education Development in Pakistan (HEDP) Project of the Higher Education Commission (HEC) has replied to the objections raised by the auditors, said a spokesman of the commission on Tuesday.

Clarifying the misconceptions circulating in social media around the World Bank-funded project, he said that HEDO activities are critical to several initiatives of HEC and aim to uplift the standard of higher education across the country.

“The audit reports are part of regular oversight and tend to improve processes. All the concerns of audit about the Higher Education Development in Pakistan (HEDP) Project have been replied to,” he said in a statement issued here.

Audit objection

According to the audit report available on the internet, objections were raised over “non-observance of selection criteria for appointment of consultants.”

The management of the HEDP appointed seven consultants during the year 2019-2020. Audit observed that the above mentioned mechanism for appointment of the consultant was not observed and marks were allocated solely for the interview, whereas, no marks had been allocated for the academic record.

lt is fact that the candidates spent a large proportion of their life to achieve the academic pursuits. Most of the consultants were appointed from HEC and at higher salary packages i.e. 2 times of the remuneration they were already drawing from IfEC.

Audit is of the view that non-observance of the above mentioned mechanism for selection is violation of the merit and transparency. The management replied that the selection of Individual Consultant under HEDP was made under Section V of “Selection of Individual Consultant” of “Guidelines Selection and Employment of Consultants under 113RD Loans and IDA Credits & Grants by World Bank Borrowers” and in these guidelines, no specific weightage is required.

Also read HEC announces local, foreign scholarships for Balochistan

Raising standard

However, the commission’s spokesman said HEDP is assisting HEC in its various key higher education initiatives. It is a five-year project (2019 - 2024) being implemented by HEC with support from the World Bank. During the last FY 19-20 audit, a few observations were raised. HEC has successfully replied to all observations.

In foreign- funded projects, donor rules apply and HEDP project is running successfully complying with the World Bank procedures. All consultants of HEDP were hired in compliance with the applicable regulations.

HEDP comprises of some key initiatives to uplift the higher education in Pakistan.

The research component includes variety of research grants to promote high quality research in public/private sector universities and affiliated colleges across the country. So far, three major grants have been launched with 10 Rapid Research Grants related to COVID-19 already awarded, he added. He said evaluation of proposals for three more grants - Grand Challenge Fund (GCF), Technology Transfer Support Fund (TTSF) and Local Challenge Fund (LCF) is already under way.

The project also aims to uplift the Offices of Research, Innovation and Commercialisation (ORIC) and Business Incubation Centres (BIC) to bridge gap between academia and industry and generate significant economic activity.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 31st, 2021.

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