Varsities engage in corruption in absence of strong oversight: Experts


Republica National Daily

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University Grants Commission has expedited the process of distributing funds meant for academic, infrastructural and administrative development of various universities. The commission had received a budget of Rs 6 billion for the purpose from the government for the ongoing fiscal year.

But, officials and experts say, the UGC has not been able to monitor how the funds are being used by the universities and academic institutions. 

“The monitoring remains merely a formality as the universities are autonomous bodies,” said UGC Member Secretary Bhola Nath Pokhrel. 

While the CIAA has been aggressive in its scrutiny of university spending of late, there is no other mechanism to oversee the activities of the varsities, which could result in worrisome outcomes in future, experts have warned. 

It is hard to interfere in the daily activities of autonomous bodies, the frequent reports of corruption in many universities does not portend well for students enrolled there.

"Though the commission has the authority to cut down the budget of universities found misusing or incapable of utilizing available budget, no such action has been taken till date due to the political meddling in the academic sector," according to Pokhrel.

The UGC cannot seize documents and take any other strict actions, which allow the universities to skirt accountability, he added. 

Pokhrel gave an example of the country´s oldest university, the Tribhuvan University (TU). As many as 1,380 teachers were hired as contract lecturers in 2006 but the number has shrunk over the years as many of them have either quit the job or settled abroad. 

"But even today, the TU shows transactions of salary issued in the name of the same number of teachers," Pokhrel added. 

Former vice-chancellor of the TU, Kedar Bhakta Mathema, said that there is no mechanism within the education system to take the situation under control if the top-level varsities themselves engage in corruption.

“In order to avert crisis in the education sector, it is high time that the concept of high powered commission that can oversee the activities of universities be discussed seriously,” he said.

When asked whether the CIAA´s action would raise question on the accountability of the UGC itself, Pokhrel said that the universities do not cooperate with the commission, so its job remains limited to allocating funds. 

With the CIAA going after top-level university officials, the credibility of the institutions are at stake, said Mathema. "It hits the students hardest," said Mathema.

“The sensitivities surrounding educational institutions must be borne in mind while taking actions against the varsities," he mentioned.