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NUL owes M34 million to staff

by Lesotho Times

ROMA — National University of Lesotho (NUL) Vice-Chancellor Professor Sharon Siverts says the university owes M34 million worth of leave days to its nearly 2 000 employees.
She said the university’s failure to keep proper records is the main reason why NUL is now saddled with such a huge financial obligation.
“The university has not kept appropriate leave records and people have not been signing for leave. As a result, accumulated leave got out of hand, causing an approximate M34 million liability,” Siverts said at a press conference on Monday.
Siverts said the university has since developed and implemented a new leave management policy to address the problem. There have been reports that some workers have accumulated leave days running into hundreds.
She said the university’s habit of overstating to meet projected expenditures had sunk the institution into a deficit that could be difficult to bridge.
Currently the university is sitting on a deficit of about M5 million for the financial year that ended June 31.
But Siverts warned that the deficit could be higher in the next financial year.
“For the coming year the projected income will, at best, only cover personnel costs; thus, we are anticipating a large deficit, which if left unattended, will have a serious effect on university operations,” she said.
She added that currently salaries and personnel emoluments are gobbling up about 90 percent of the NUL’s annual operating budget.
“It is well known that any organisation that commits over 60 percent of its budget to personnel is not sustainable.”
Investments made to raise income have now become liabilities that are now costing the university money.
She said staff policies which were implemented a few years ago have burdened the budget.
“A medical aid scheme was introduced a few years ago. NUL pays 67 percent of premium and employees pay 33 percent, which results in the university paying 67 percent fringe benefits tax.
“This costs the university over M7 million a year. This is an example of being uninformed about the consequences of implementing a policy and it being embedded in the terms and conditions of service of staff, making it difficult to correct as these are contractual terms.”
Siverts said tuition waivers for employees and their family members have worsened the university’s financial problems.
“The university instituted tuition waivers for staff and family members who pursue studies at NUL but set no limits on the length of time or conditions one could have a tuition waiver.”
“In fact some fail and repeat and repeat and repeat at the university’s expense. This is another example that costs the university considerable resources annually.”
She said lack of accountability has also not helped the situation.
“The university has had disclaimer audits for several years. Money and property has been reported missing and stolen on many occasions but without disciplinary rules and regulations, such are unattended, and the university then fails to be accountable.”
Some employees receive two salaries, the vice-chancellor said.
“It is common practice for departments to set up new teaching programmes and then recommend full-time staff members in the same department or other within the university to be employed as part-time lecturers.”
She added: “In other words the same staff member of the university is now paid part-time lectureship wages for working for the university while also getting his/her full salary.”
She said the academic and curriculum issues are equally shambolic. The curriculum has not been reviewed for years making programmes outdated.
“The curriculum has not been reviewed in some departments for over a decade and one wonders how graduates can be prepared for the 21st century under such conditions?”
The infrastructure cannot cope with the increased number of students.
“The university has allowed 500 — 1 000 students in a class, with classrooms holding 400 students; again, one wonders how good instruction can occur in such a setting?”
Staff has not ordered textbooks and students have not bought any, Siverts added.
“The university has been lax in setting up appropriate procedures for assuring staff order textbooks and students buy textbooks — as a result, most students do not buy books because they use money as they wish; one wonders how a university can function when students are not required to use textbooks and rely primarily on class notes and
information from the internet.?”

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