They say that for Nigerian universities to be rated high, tertiary education in the country must be well funded.
They, however, express dismay that the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund), is not making the desired impact, as principal officers of many tertiary institutions have been guests of anti-graft agencies for alleged mismanagement of funds.
TETFund, in order to strengthen the capacity of tertiary institutions on how to utilise the funds, as well as access other intervention funds, recently organised a conference in Abuja, for heads of tertiary institutions and principal stakeholders.
The workshop was organised in conjunction with the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), and the Office of the Special Adviser to the President on Ethics and Value.
The theme of the conference was: “Transparency, Accountability and Ethical Values in Tertiary Institutions for Sustainable Development.’’
It was targeted at improving the capacity of tertiary institutions to access and utilise TETFund interventions, create higher sense of awareness for transparency, accountability and ethical conduct in the management of tertiary institutions.
Speaking at the conference, President Goodluck Jonathan said the delay by some institutions to access the funds was not in the interest of the nation’s education sector.
The president urged the participants to put in place a mechanism for monitoring the implementation of the decisions and outcome of the conference.
“Under my watch, the tertiary education sector will continue to be supported in terms of incentives and supportive financing,’’ he said.
Dr Musa Babayo, Chairman, Board of Trustees of TETFund, said the conference was timely considering the present situation of the nation’s tertiary institutions.
He said a study conducted in 2012 by the Committee on Needs Assessment of Nigerian Public Universities, set up by the Federal Government, revealed that public universities were grossly mismanaged.
Babayo said the institutions were lacking in human and material resources in spite of huge investments in them by the Federal Government through TETFund.
“Between 2009 and 2014, the fund, in keeping with its mandate, has injected a colossal sum of N456.66 billion into the Nigerian education sector, while N65.65 billion was yet to be accessed.
“This is exclusive of the recent N100 billion interventions by the Federal Government, based on agreement between the Federal Government and the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ’’ he said.
In his view, Dr Iyela Ajayi, Provost, Federal College of Education, Okene, Kogi, some of the tertiary institutions could not access TETFund because of inadequate planning.
He said failure of managers of tertiary institutions to plan on the effective utilisation of the intervention funds was a major factor hindering access to the fund.
“Some institutions either do not have or lack adequate planning on what they intend to do with the allocation yearly.
“Use of unqualified professionals, engagement of incompetent contractors and appointment of unqualified TETFund desk officers are major factors responsible for failure of institutions to access intervention funds,’’ he said.
Nonetheless, Ajayi observed that delay in honouring invitations by institutions for project monitoring on the part of TETFund, had also resulted in delay in the disbursement of funds.
“It takes a minimum of two weeks for TETFund to honour invitations, probably because of shortage of manpower and this is not in the interest of institutions that are ready to access the fund.
“It has tendency to delay disbursement of funds and my advice is for TETFund to increase its staff strength to enhance prompt response to invitations,’’ he suggested.
He called for the establishment of TETFund offices across the geopolitical zones of the country, noting that difficulties of travelling long distances for little problems could hinder institutions from accessing the fund.
Ajayi also advocated for online submission of documents to reduce challenges of travelling long distances to access the fund.
Mr Ekpo Nta, Chairman of ICPC, said the goal of the conference was to entrench the culture of transparency, accountability and ethical conduct in tertiary institutions.
He said the ICPC, in collaboration with the Nigerian Universities Commission had in 2012, conducted a pilot system study of corruption prone processes in the operation of Nigerian universities.
Nta said the study was to help the universities to identify and deal with some unethical and criminal practices that were inimical to the smooth running of universities.
He identified admission racketeering, poor record keeping, poor examinations management, improper management of funds and facilities as some of the unethical and criminal practices.
Prof. Janice Olawoye of the University of Ibadan, said the conference was useful considering the fact that the tertiary institutions were still part of the society where corruption was already a challenge.
“I do know that in the society, there are problems of fund mismanagement and am sure that the education sector is not exempted from this kind of problem,’’ she said.
Stakeholders at the conference are of the view that boosting the capacity of the nation’s tertiary institutions is not just a question of getting the fund, but how the fund is managed. (NAN)