– former UGSSA vice president
The unions of the University of Guyana, the Senior Staff Association (UGSSA) and the Workers’ Union (UGWU) await a financial audit by the Auditor General into the institution’s spending.
The university has been afforded successive increased annual subventions in parliament’s budgets, and the university has also managed to secure some corporate and philanthropic funding. But it has been alleged that, despite these increases, the money is not being properly managed.
Complaints abound that basic teaching materials are unavailable, and equipment to run faculty offices have dwindled.
Dr. Mellissa Ifill, former vice president of the UGSSA, and a lecturer at the university said that secretaries in her faculty have recently complained about the absence of basic stationery supplies, and that the washrooms in the same faculty, used by over 40 staff, have no tissue and soap.
There are complaints that students still have to stand outside of classrooms and offices listening and taking notes while lecturers teach. Campus bins are said to often be leaking as they are filled to capacity, compounded by a sewage problem that the university has experienced for quite a few years. Dr. Ifill said that this issue has been protested as far back as four years ago.
The UG Student Society had noted that a fee increase is set to kick in, yet again. The increase is the final of three consecutive increases decided on, in 2016. The students were subjected to a 15 percent increase in 2017, 10 percent last year, and another 10 percent increase this year.
Students have also been complaining that while tuition fees continue to rise, the campus is unsafe with little effort to improve campus security. Kaieteur News reported just last week that an outcry over the lack of proper security for students at the University of Guyana’s Turkeyen Campus prompted the UG Student Society to demand increased security.
There is now new information coming to the fore about how the university has been spending. Kaieteur News has been informed that the university once spent upward of $400,000 to cater dinner for just eight persons at Renaissance House.
“How self indulgent?” asked Dr. Ifill, regarding the hosting of a dinner for just eight persons at that cost, “when there is no toilet paper and soap for staff”.
She said that some of the senior administrators have per diems that match the President and his Ministers. Further, she said that there have been hires of persons, granted salaries that don’t fit into the university’s salary scale.
A graphic provided by the unions illustrates a comparison of spending by the Vice Chancellery and all the university’s faculties, in the area of ‘other costs’. ‘Other costs’ refers to operational costs, which include conference and tours; local travel and subsistence; maintenance of equipment/vehicles; workshops and seminars; snacks and refreshments for meetings; internet and computer access, and stationery and office supplies.
The graphic shows a steep increase in spending by the vice chancellery from 2016 onward. In some years, the Vice Chancellery spent more on ‘other costs’ than the faculties’ combined spending, which includes seven faculties and one school.
Yesterday, Kaieteur News reported that graphical data jointly released by the two unions, of the University of Guyana Audited and Unaudited Financial Statements and budget documents (2014-2019), suggest that money is disproportionately allocated to the Executive body.
The “Executive”, according to a joint release from the unions, refers to eight senior administrators of the University. Emolument costs illustrated on the release show that in 2013, the combined compensatory packages for the Executive Body amounted to less than $60M. In 2018, that figure increased to stand well over $180M. This represents a tripling of the salary packages of that body of officials in just five years. A distribution of emolument costs for the proposed budget for 2019 allocated 15 percent of those funds to the Vice Chancellery.
The Education Ministry notified the Vice Chancellor’s office of the unions’ request for a financial audit into the university’s spending. In response, Vice Chancellor Professor Ivelaw Griffith said, “The Administration welcomes the opportunity to clear the air on the allegations and assertions by the unions and other individuals.” He said that the Administration is willing to have its financial position examined by any competent and independent Arbiter.
Meanwhile, the Administration said that it is awaiting a response from the unions to its weeks-old request for several documents as part of efforts to be consistent in the pursuit of accountability and transparency.
The documents sought include their Articles of Association, Certificates of Recognition, Statements of Income and Expenditure for recent years, and recent Annual Returns and audited statements.
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