By Julius Adinoyi
Over the last few years, several studies have shown that there has been mismanagement of funds in the tertiary education sector through high financial misappropriations, fund-misuse, unaccountability of existing funding-source and breach of project implementation policies which have led to an increasing economic loss and underdevelopment of the tertiary education sector. It’s been observed that lack of proper monitoring and evaluation within the sector, have encouraged corruption and financial abuse. Thus, in a bid to ensure sustained finance management and accountability within the sector, this article calls for an increased monitoring, transparency and accountability in the governance of the tertiary education sector.
Since the late 90s, the public-sector management in Nigeria have been faced with criticisms of corruption; and with an increasing demand for accountability and transparency within the sector (Addison, 1996). The 2009 Office of the Auditor-General for the Federation (AuGF) audit report revealed that all Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) flouted financial regulatory rules and due processes; and additionally, massive corruption and unaccountability which were not exclusive to the Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) in the Tertiary Education Sector (TES).
As at 2016, Nigeria had about 152 universities of which 40 are federal, 44 are state and 68 are privately owned; 138 Polytechnics and Colleges of Agriculture of which 41 are federal, 59 are state, and 38 are privately owned; 27 Monotechnics of which 23 are federal, 2 are state, and 2 privately owned; and 83 Colleges of Education, out of which 46 are federal owned, 28 are state owned and 9 are private (NBTE, 2017; NCCE 2017; NUC 2017).
Most of those institutions have been under-funded leading to poor learning-infrastructural development and maintenance (Ololube et al.,2016a), and inadequate provision of instructional materials (Ololube et al., 2016b). While the Funds from the Tertiary Education Fund (TetFUND), Federal Ministry of Education and IGR of tertiary institutions are not commensurable to the amount required for providing quality tertiary education; the funding from these sources have been under-utilised, embezzled and inefficiently managed (Acho & Abuh, 2016). This sets the stage for uncompleted projects and embezzlement of funds that would have otherwise contribute to the development of the institutions towards providing quality education to the students (Waziri, 2010).
In 2013, out of the 100 billion naira TetFund allocation to all universities in Nigeria, the management of Obafemi Awolowo University was accused of diverting an estimate of 3.5 billion naira appropriated for hostel and lecture theatres development. This was possible due to the lack of financial monitoring by the TetFund Implementation and Monitoring Committee. The frequencies and unreported similar cases like this cannot be overruled in the TES in Nigeria (The Budget and Monitoring Committee, 2016).
The 2013 Office of the Auditor-General for the Federation audit report revealed that 177 million naira was illegally transferred from Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to Ahmadu Bello University’s Micro Finance Bank, violating Financial Regulation 701 and 702, and additionally, the school management failed to account for the bank statement to show accountability in spending. While the school indicated to have spent 169 million out of the 177 million naira on three projects which were not in the annual project appropriation plan, the funds were not utilised for the purpose intended considering the disparity between payments and level of execution. Also, the report found that about 46 million naira out of a contracted 48 million naira (leaving only withholding tax) delivery of Stockert S5 Heart-Lung machine and two cooler units, had already been paid out to the contractor without delivery. Among others are the scandal in the procurement of Medical Equipment Type “A” worth 14 million naira; and the delivery and training of cancer equipment worth 79 million naira (AuGF 2013).
Other misappropriations in the TES include: the failure of Federal Ministry of Health, Abuja, to properly account for the 30 million naira contract for the completion of School of Biomedical Engineering, University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital, Enugu; and misclassification and diversion of 37 million naira from the Personnel Costs vote to payment of security and cleaning services and conference/training at the Hussaini Adamu Federal Polytechnic, Kazaure (AuGF 2013).
In the 2014 AuGF report, the University of Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital awarded about seven contracts totalling a sum of 151 million naira from her IGR without legislative approvals. The management also awarded about 217 million naira contract for the supply of 1000KVA Caterpillar Generator for which the actual appropriated figure in the annual plan was worth 35 million naira. There were also an uncounted 18 million naira for the construction of Integrated Kidney Dialysis of Transplantation Centre; an abandoned construction of Psychiatric Building worth 245 million naira, of which 50% of the award have been paid while the project completion stage is less than 40%; unaccounted Store Receipt Vouchers for 70 million out of the 108 million worth supply of equipment at the Dental Centre; and lack of due process in the award of the contract for the construction of General Out-Patient Department building costing 80 million naira which would have been awarded for 73 million as revealed by the Tender Analysis Chat; continual payment amounting to a total sum of 151 million naira to a contractor out of the 244 million awarded contract for the construction of the ENT Building while the contractor had abandoned the project for over one year (AuGF 2014).
The AuGF 2014 report also revealed that the University of Nigeria, Nsukka was involved in an unaccounted 10 million naira worth of contract for the remodelling of the Vice Chancellor’s Office, a contract which was not in the university budget plan. In addition, there were lack of due process in the award of the contract for the reconstruction of the burnt Engineering Laboratory building worth 96 million naira, an unaccounted document to show the justification for the increase to 123 million naira; over budgeting of security vote to about 115 million naira and 36 thousand US dollars without any evidence of security threat nor the approval of the chief security officer; award of 27 million naira for the construction of perimeter fence wall from behind the Vice Chancellor’s lodge at Odenigwe, from the IGR without proper approval; a total of 2.5 billion acquired from the 5% tax retention for 120 implemented projects out of the 241 contracts cannot be accounted; also, 47 out of those 241 contracts is worth 6 billion, and have been abandoned, of which 3 billion have been paid out; and lastly, an outrageous award of 632 million naira worth contract award for the Construction of the Main Building, Institute of African Studies which is way above the maximally allowed appropriation of 250 million naira (AuGF 2014).
Other institutions indicted in the AuGF 2014 report was the Federal University, Oye Ekiti with an unaccounted amount of 345 million naira; while the Federal Polythecnic Ekowe made unauthorised fund transfer of 649 million naira from the CBN account, and made an overpayment of 168 million on four contracts which was awarded at a value of 394 million naira (AuGF 2014).
An independent report by Onyeike and Owuama (2012) and SEREP (2013) respectively, stated that inadequacy of funds, poor planning, corruption, and massive embezzlement in the TES have costed a total loss of millions of US dollars. The effect and loss can be observed in the 2016 ASUU report which revealed that about 701 projects are currently under completion across the Nigerian Universities; of which 163 of them have been abandoned for an average period of 27 years, while 538 of them have been untimely ongoing. Additionally, the report indicated that most of the Universities in Nigeria use well-water sources amounting to 65% of the students making use of bush as toilets while 45% of those universities use pit latrine toilets (ASUU, 2016).
In furtherance, most of universities management engaged in misappropriation and diversion of funds lavished on expensive school gates, luxurious cars and motorcade while the basic school amenities and infrastructures are left unattended to; and additionally, an illegal use of funds for personal purposes (Mestry, 2004). In same vein, the Federal and State government misappropriate funds into increasing the number of universities and tertiary institutions, thus creating a room for insufficient overall budgetary allocation to respective institutions due to increased developmental projects, staffing and administrative costs (ASUU, 2016).
In summary, the financial mismanagement of fund (Tetfund and IGR) appropriation within the last few years in the TES have caused huge economic cost (i.e. neglect of funding some significant projects; misuse of fund which includes but not limited to funds underuse, non-use, overuse of funds on irrelevant projects, diversion of into personal use amounting to scandals and corruption, and an unsupervised and unaccounted spending of funds; lack of accountability to and breach of TES financial policies, and the secrecy in accounting for funds
The challenges to finance management in the TES are the lack of proper external audit, internal monitoring and evaluation, gap in the TetFund implementation guidelines and in IGR monitoring, lapses in initiated management efforts, and finally the corrupt habit of management teams within the TES. Additionally, international donors have failed to intervene in the development of the educational sector due to lack of transparency and accountability as highlighted by the unaccounted 820 million naira MacArthur Foundation funding of tertiary education between 2000 and 2007 (Nigerian Tribune, 2007).
The need for openness in the TES has never been more needed as it is in the present day, considering the February 2017 approval by President Buhari for the release of 213 billion naira to tertiary education institutions through TetFund, as well as the release of the details of the National Assembly Budget. To this end, this article calls for an increased demand for openness especially by the Civil Society Organisations, accountability of TetFund and IGR by the Tertiary institutions, ensured monitoring and evaluation of implemented projects funded from the TetFund and IGR, and sustainable framework to review financial guide of the TetFund and IGR management. Such demand for accountability in TES will increase stewardship, compliance with funding policies and improve project goal delivery which ultimately will lead to the provision and access to quality tertiary education (Stanley, 2000).
Julius Adinoyi is the Associate Programme Manager, Basic Rights Watch