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NUL finances under spotlight

by Lesotho Times
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ROMA — Some senior government officials recently suggested that the government stops subsidising the National University of Lesotho (NUL)

saying there was a clear indication that management at the university were mismanaging funds, the Lesotho Times can reveal.

Several sources in the ministry of finance’s upper echelons told this paper that there had been a suggestion earlier this year to have government withdraw its financial support to the university.

NUL relies on government funding to run its affairs.

Most of its students are on government grants. 

The university is unable to generate enough money to sustain itself. 

The suggestion to pull the plug on the university was made after it was noted that its financial accounts were always qualified because something was always amiss in the books. 

The source said the finance ministry’s principal secretary Mosito Khethisa and other senior government officials were part of the discussion where the suggestion was made.

 “It was suggested during the discussions that the subvention should be stopped starting with the 2009/2010 financial year,” a source said.

“Most of us got surprised when the issue was never conveyed to the NUL authorities.”

“At present NUL is preparing its budget which is expected to reach the minister’s desk by December.”

The source said those in support of the withdrawal said NUL has been unable to generate its own income despite being autonomous.

“It was raised in the meeting that if subvention could be stopped NUL would use its skills to raise funds.”

Khethisa last night confirmed that the possibility of withdrawing subvention from NUL was discussed but the discussions had not reached the ministerial level yet.

Khethisa who was speaking from Cyprus where he is on official business

said some senior government officials raised the issue after they observed that for many years the NUL accounts were qualified.

“It is  not correct to say the government has reached a conclusion to stop supporting the university financially,” Khethisa said.

“Everybody agreed that there is a problem at NUL and the manner in which it conducts its financial matters triggered the discussion on how best could we help,” he said.

“That was when the issue of withdrawing subvention was raised but it never reached the ministerial level.

“I have never put it before my boss.

“The government can no longer afford to support NUL financially.

“This university cannot retain its lecturers and it startles everybody why.

“We were merely seeking ways to solve the problem.”

 A highly placed source within NUL confirmed that the university’s financial books were in a mess.

“We have messed up everything,” said the source who is in the university’s finance department.

“People get paid huge monies while sitting at their homes doing nothing for this university.”

The source mentioned three cases of people who are still getting paid their full salaries and benefits while on suspension.

NUL bursar, Matsobane Putsoa, was suspended for five years from 2000 to 2005 but remained on the payroll during the time.

His case dragged on for years until he was later reinstated.

But after two years at work Putsoa was again suspended in 2007.

He is however still on the university’s wage bill with a full salary and benefits.

Investigations by this paper revealed that Putsoa is currently getting a monthly salary of M33 000.

This means since October 2007 when he was suspended the university will have paid him M759 000 for nothing.

“This is a sheer waste of hard earned money,” the source said.

“It is a waste because the university is also paying someone acting in his position.”

“The university is paying two people for the same post; another is working while the other is resting at his home.”

Putsoa declined to comment.

Another senior worker, Mosa Masilo, was expelled from NUL and he won a labour court case after two years.

NUL was forced to pay him M400 000.

Another senior employee, Karabo Tlhoeli is on suspension with full pay, according to the source.

 “The university is paying that salary twice because it also pays a person acting in Tlhoeli’s place.”

The source said the funds from the government are mainly spent on salaries.

He said tuition fees by the students are too low to cover the university’s expenses.

“It is high time that NUL finds its own way of generating its own income that will be enough to cover its expenses.”

Tlhoeli said he was not happy getting paid without contributing anything to NUL’s operations.

Tlhoeli earns a monthly salary of M18 000 plus other benefits, meaning that for 11 months of his suspension NUL paid him almost M200 000.

“I am very concerned that I continue to be on the NUL’s payroll without contributing to its operations,” Tlhoeli said.

“It is very irresponsible of the vice-chancellor or the university management.

“People at NUL just do things freely without thinking about the costs because they know that they will not be surcharged.

“They know that it is taxpayers who will pay and they do not bother to relate their decisions with costs.”

Efforts to contact Masilo failed.

Also efforts to contact the NUL registrar failed.

Finance Minister, Timothy Thahane told the Lesotho Times in an interview that it was a blatant lie that the government was planning to withdraw financial support from NUL.

“It is a lie,” Thahane said.

“I want you to quote me saying it’s a blatant lie.”

The sources said the bulk of the blame lies with the vice-chancellor, Adelani Ogunrinade.  

Ogunrinade is currently on suspension for allegedly mishandling a US$800 000 grant provided by Kellogg Foundation, a US institute.

But other observers say some of the problems were there before Ogunrinade was appointed.

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