The Federal Auditor General reported that Meqelle University has a 64 million Br audit gap in the financial year of 2015/16 fiscal year in its report to the parliament’s Standing Committee on Public Expenditures, Administration & Regulation.
Bloated salaries and benefits, illegitimate procurements, unaccounted and unproven expenses and uncollected accounts, mismanagement of properties and unaddressed accounts from the previous year’s audit report were the highlighted points in the eight-page summary by the standing commite headed by Woyinshet Gelessu.
The report was presented at the premises of the parliament at the end of March. The management of the University gave its responses after questions were raised by members of the Standing Committee and other governmental institutions such as the Ministry of Finance & Economic Cooperation (MoFEC) and the Office of the Attorney General.
Belaynesh Abraha, finance head of the University, explained that expenses on salary, part-time and benefits were sourced from the university’s income, from extension classes, and put into effect after the approval of the board of the University.
“All receivable accounts [money owed to the University]has already been cleared after establishing a committee that studied the sources of gaps,” Belaynesh said.
The most controversial issue at the meeting was that of payment to an Indian expat lecturer who also assists at the University’s Ayider Hospital in pathology and forensics.
He was paid 86,755 Br above the contractual agreement with the University, while his gross salary was 311,906 Br according to the report.
“The expat is finalising his third year of giving the course, and we didn’t want it interrupted before the training ended,” Abdulkadir Kedir (PhD), vice president of the University, responded to the allegation.
Another controversial point was that of the University’s decentralised procurement of goods, which earned unanimous disapproval from the Committee’s members.
“The university administers seven different colleges with their own respective allocated budgets and a mandate to carry out their procurements,” Abdulkadir told the participants. “Although there are procurements which are carried out centrally such as printing and hospitality services for guests, most others are difficult to perform in the same manner.”
Participants of the session, including members of the Committee, asserted the allegedly unaccounted for transactions are a result of poor planning. They advised that the problem is addressed through the centralised planning of all the budgets of the colleges.
“We administer various types of services and researchers whose expenses are unpredictable to manage,” said the vice president explaining why a centralised system would be detrimental.
He also asked the Standing Committee and the Auditor General Gemechu Dubisso, for the University to continue with the autonomy it has enjoyed thus far, with the approval of the board.
As for the utilisation of the money generated by the University, it was advised by the Committee for its use to be planned annually, as it is done with the budget allocated from the Federal Government.
Before the close of the session, the committee and the auditor general told the University’s management team to rectify the flaws as soon as possible.
Rectification will not come as long as there are actions by the University that do not go along with financial directives, a shortage of skilled staff in the finance and auditing management, and old accounting and auditing systems, according to a lecturer at Addis Abeba University’s (AAU) College of Business & Economics for 16 years.
“The government should consider devising a financial directive which is flexible and has room for Universities to settle unexpected expenses,” said Habtamu Berhanu (PhD).
About 3.7 billion Br worth of audit gaps were discovered at 10 public universities by the Auditor General in the past fiscal year alone. This is part of the 20 billion Br worth of audit irregularities from a 158 public institutions.
One of those universities was AAU, which hired a consulting firm, Merit Management Consultancy, two weeks after the reports of the auditor general.
Source: Addis Fortune