KARACHI: The vice chancellors of public universities in Sindh told the Public Accounts Committee on Wednesday that they would not be able to run their universities while adhering to the complicated rules and procedures set by the government.
“Let the boards of governors run their respective universities and give handsome salaries to faculty members, otherwise the institutions will be deserted,” said Nilofer Shaikh, the vice chancellor of Shah Latif University, Khairpur Mirs.
She said that multinational companies offer salary packages ranging from Rs0.2 million to Rs0.5 million to professionals holding doctorate degrees.
The audit team questioned her about the expenditures without open tenders. “We cannot engage in the bidding process for urgent expenditures. How can we award a tender to repair a washroom in the girls’ hostel, which costs only Rs1,700? ” she said. “Also, the procedure of inviting tenders takes many days and we can’t let our students suffer.” Shaikh added that the university only invites tenders for expenditures worth more than Rs0.1 million.
The audit team was not satisfied with her answer and stressed that the administration of Shah Latif University had spent Rs0.425 million on equipment and repairs without following the proper procedure.
The director-general, Ghulam Akbar Soho, pointed out that for the years 2006-7, 2007-9 and 2008-9, Rs2.42 million in medical allowances had been given to gazetted officers who were not entitled to it. “This unauthorised amount will be recovered and the university should make sure that this does not happen in the future,” he said.
But Shaikh said that the medical allowance was allowed by the syndicate. “Please do not trap us in these complexities, otherwise no teacher will come to public universities in rural areas,” she said. Shaikh added that there was already a lack of basic facilities at the universities, including proper accommodation for teaching staff. Later the accounts committee accepted the justification and settled the point.
The audit team also raised the issue of irregular payments to buy a generator and vehicles, amounting to Rs1.974 million. “The amount was spent, but the administration has failed to produce the vouchers to verify the record,” Soho said. The committee deferred this point, asking the vice chancellor to produce the documents within a month.
Dead or alive?
During an earlier meeting, the audit team took the administration of Karachi University to task over an outstanding amount of Rs1.688 million. For its part, KU said it had not asked for an explanation as the professor responsible for getting the money back had passed away.
The chairman of the accounts committee had asked the university officials to bring the death certificate to verify this. But on Wednesday, KU said that they had made a mistake. They had earlier named a chemistry professor, Prof. SRR Naqvi, who had passed away. However, the faculty member responsible for the recovery was Prof. SMMR Naqvi of the physics department. “We have now issued the show-cause notice to the serving professor to recover the outstanding amount of Rs396,638,” an official said.
The payment of Rs3.61 million to university employees in a conveyance allowance, even though they live on-campus, was also discussed. KU explained that the residential area is two to three kilometres away from the department offices, which is why the amount was given. The committee did not accept this explanation and deferred this point for further clarification.
A total of 14 points were discussed, out of which 11 were settled. A total Rs25 million was to be recovered, but audit team has recovered around Rs5 million so far.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 24th, 2012.