Jul 11, 2017 News
– persons accepting appointments to build résumés – Vice Chancellor
The University of Guyana’s [UG] procurement system has been neglected for years. This has been the deduction of Professor Ivelaw Griffith, who just over a year ago accepted the post of Principal and Vice Chancellor of the institution.
Professor Griffith said that having recognized the dilemma, deliberate remedial efforts were engaged.
“We were only last year October able to hire a procurement officer, but he has already left,” the Vice Chancellor revealed. The appointed Procurement Officer parted ways with the university early last month, reportedly for an appointment at the Inter-American Development Bank [IDB].
The Vice Chancellor claims to have a clear understanding why this has happened. “Partly because of the low salaries at this university, both on the teaching and administrative side, we have difficulty recruiting people,” he confessed, even as he added, “we are looking for a Civil Engineer, we are looking for an Attorney, we have been looking for a Chief Accountant for four years.”
He continued, “There are a number of things that have impeded efficiency and effectiveness and quality of service to students, it is going to take money to get it right, and I make no apologies…If we don’t pay people we are going to get them for the wrong reasons. They are going to come and spend a year, build their résumés, and they are going to move on; it is already happening.”
But fixing the long neglected procurement system is especially important if the university is to prove it can properly spend its finances. Vice Chancellor Griffith has moreover noted that although the move to hire a Procurement Officer was a step forward, the departure of the officer has yet left the university in a quandary. And this dilemma, according to Professor Griffith, has been recognized by Government. Minister of Public Infrastructure, Mr. David Patterson, during a visit to the Turkeyen Campus made this observation.
“Minister Patterson spent about two hours, then we walked the campus and he said ‘Vice Chancellor your problems are much bigger than I thought.’ He said to me ‘I saw that you asked for $5 billion from government’. He asked [too] ‘Vice Chancellor if you get that, can you spend it?” recalled Professor Griffith.
“The Minister was asking a correct question…because for me to be able to make a case next year to the government that I want more money, I have to be able to show them that I was able to spend some of what I got before, and if we don’t have a procurement unit, then we have a problem,” the Vice Chancellor explained.
According to him, there are a number of things that need troubleshooting to ensure the efficiency of the university. In fact, he made reference to a World Bank project that was languishing as he added, “You don’t want to know the millions of issues, people ask ‘Ivelaw, how do you stay sane?’ So the critics from the outside don’t know the half of it.”
In recognition of his challenges, Professor Griffith said, “I brought seven ministers to this campus and said help us.”
Professor Griffith last year proposed to Government that in order realize a modernized university, there was a need for subvention of $5.2 billion from the 2017 budget. Government had however approved $2.9 billion for the University.
This was despite the Vice Chancellor’s explanation that a large portion of the money would be used to pay higher salaries to both foreign and local academic staff. In fact, he had underscored that to improve the university’s credibility, more foreign staff would have to be hired to perform functions which cannot be taken up by locals owing to the lack of skill sets required.
“It’s not always something that colleagues like to hear… Some of the staff we are going to need to hire both on the academic and on the administrative side will need to come from outside Guyana. We will need to attract people from outside that have got skills that we need that are not readily available here,” he explained.
The funds, he had proposed too, would have been used to improve the laboratory, support overseas travel for lecturers to present papers at international conferences, development of a new library, a new centre for communication studies, fencing of the campus to prevent animals from roaming, the purchase of a tractor, and to improve lighting.
Further, he had highlighted the need for the institution to hire its own attorney to take care of all its legal aspects, such as labour issues and intellectual property rights.
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