Jun 17, 2019 News
Auditor General, Deodat Sharma should disregard the directive of the Education Ministry to withhold its special audit into the spending practices of the University of Guyana (UG) administration. This is according to Attorney-at-law and Accountant, Christopher Ram.
Back in April, the Ministry of Education had informed Sharma’s office of requests for an audit into the university’s spending practices by the University of Guyana Workers Union (UGWU) and the University of Guyana Senior Staff Association (UGSSA).
These very requests came when Vice Chancellor, Professor Ivelaw Griffith, indicated his intention to have his contract renewed. The unions advocated stringently for the Vice Chancellor to be evaluated for his contract renewal, as they had feared that his renewal would be considered without ample scrutiny of his record by the Council.
They had heavily criticised the spending practices of the administration, complaining that money was being disproportionately allocated to the Vice Chancellery.
Amidst all this, Griffith was busy outlining a 20-year vision for the development of the university.
He had responded to the unions’ protests, saying that, “the Administration welcomes the opportunity to clear the air on the allegations and assertions by the unions and other individuals.”
The unions had raised concerns about misallocation of funds and excessive spending by the administration, bringing Griffith’s tenure at the university under heavy public scrutiny, and the administration’s handling of its successive increased annual subventions.
Last week, the VC rescinded his request to have his contract renewed.
In a recent interview with Kaieteur News, Sharma said that the Ministry of Education wrote to his office, instructing that the investigation be put on hold. Sharma said, “I was already preparing to go do the investigation.”
Ram, who served as Chair of the Audit Committee under Griffith’s tenure as Vice Chancellor, had criticized Griffith, explaining that multiple attempts to audit UG’s finances were met with staunch resistance from Griffith himself.
He said yesterday that the directive from the Education Ministry to put the investigation on hold is a “grievous act.” Ram stressed that, in doing so, the Ministry official was seriously interfering with a just office, something that official has no authority to do.
Further, Ram said that the Ministry should answer for the directive, as Sharma said that an explanation was not provided.
OUTSTANDING FINANCIAL STATEMENTS
Sharma said that despite the directive, his office will still seek to address some of the issues raised about UG’s spending during its regular audits.
He said that the last audit done into UG’s finances was for the year 2014. Recently, his office received the financial statements for 2015, but it still awaits the statements for 2016, 2017 and 2018.
Sharma noted that the non-submission of these vital statements is the biggest obstacle his office faces.
“That will pose some problems in terms of doing the investigation because, without all the financial statements, we can’t carry out a proper investigation.”
MAJOR GAPS AT UG
Government has not been doing enough to address issues that the University of Guyana is facing. This is according to Opposition Leader, Bharrat Jagdeo.
He noted during a press conference last Thursday that Griffith has decided to rescind his request for his contract to be renewed as Vice Chancellor. However, the Opposition Leader said that there are still issues at the University and that government must act quickly, or there will be a major fall-out.
Apart from the complaints about its spending practices, the university is facing several other issues.
Both staffers and students have complained that basic toiletries and stationery are sometimes missing from some departments, an issue that Griffith vehemently denied.
There have been complaints about successive increases in tuition fees. The outcry resulted in the formation of a new group, the Free UG Movement, which has been advocating for fees to be removed completely. That movement has received the support of several trade unions and the UG Student Association.
There have been complaints of security issues too. Back in April, the UGSS requested police presence at the Turkeyen Campus in a 21-point manifesto to political parties. There have been multiple instances of robbery in and on the outskirts of campus, especially at its back entrance, according to UGSS President, Devta Ramroop.
Jagdeo said that the major issues UG is facing have to be addressed immediately, and that government should not treat these matters lightly.
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