The Administration of the University of Guyana has fought hard against efforts to scrutinise its spending habits, in the past.
This is according to Accountant and Attorney-at-law Christopher Ram, who had served as the Chairman of UG’s Audit Committee.
Money was spent “without any accountability,” Ram said.
He told Kaieteur News that the audit committee functioned to, among other things, oversee audits by the internal auditors and to liaise with external auditors. But when the committee tried to hold meetings, Ram said that there have been efforts by the Vice Chancellor, Professor Ivelaw Lloyd Griffith, and his staff, to block those meetings.
Even now, Ram said that there has not been a single audit of UG’s spending habits throughout Griffith’s tenure – 2016 to present – and he worries that the lack of scrutiny has left too much to run amok.
Griffith’s predecessor was heavily scrutinised to account for his foreign travels, which Ram said comes nowhere close to what Griffith is now getting away with.
Candidly, Ram said that sometimes, it seems Griffith “spends more time out than in” the jurisdiction.
Ram stated that the gap between what the Vice Chancellor has “done for himself” (his Department) and what he has done for other branches of the university is quite telling.
There has been much protest over money being disproportionately allocated to the vice chancellery, as opposed to the faculties. The complaints are not just in the way of allocations for work, but about how rapidly the emoluments of the executive body are growing. Some have argued that the increase is solely because that body now has more members.
There are complaints from students about tuition fees rising to an unsustainable level, and a movement emboldened by the prospect of oil has already, with the cooperation of the UG Student Society, staged a walkout at university, to demonstrate just how many persons want tuition fees to be scrapped.
Staffers of some faculties have raised complaints about the lack of basic facilities, like toilet paper, soap and stationery. And security is also a problem, according to the UG Student Association, despite the fact that a private security firm, Massy, is contracted to stand guard.
Vice Chancellor Griffith has strong connections in government – “party connections” – Ram said. He added that Griffith has packed the various university organs with persons who are loyal to him.
Ram has questioned, with all the money that the university has been spending and the complaints by the unions, “What have they achieved?”
In a letter to Kaieteur News last month, Griffith sought to defend his record with the university.
He has hit back against allegations that faculties go without basic toiletries and stationery.
He reminded that the launch of the Jay and Sylvia Sobhraj Centre for Behavioral Sciences and Research was done recently under his tenure. He also has taken credit for the launch of the School of Entrepreneurship and Business Innovation (SEBI) in 2017 and the launch this year of new degree programmes in Petroleum Engineering, Food Science, Youth Work, Clinical Psychology, and in Nursing and Civil Engineering in Berbice. He also said that the university has gotten a geo-technical lab for students studying petroleum and mining engineering, and that the UG’s medical school retained accreditation in 2017. Griffith took credit for a series of other infrastructural improvements done recently for the university, and for salary increases given to the staff.
UG’s two unions, the Senior Staff Association (UGSSA) and the Workers’ Union (UGWU), have requested an audit into UG’s spending. The administration responded last month that it welcomes an audit into its spending practices. The calls have come at a critical time, as Griffith has sought to renew his contract for the Vice Chancellor’s post. He has indicated that there is much more to do to fulfill his vision for UG.
Guyana awaits a special audit into the spending of the University, by the office of the Auditor General, Deodat Sharma. Sharma’s office has reportedly had meetings with officials from the Ministry of Education and the two unions of the university, who have staunchly advocated for the audit.
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