On February 11, the University of Rwanda (UR) announced that within 5 years, it will have covered the large debt it has that is more that 30 percent of its 2019 budget – after the Auditor General raised concerns over the hole in the institution’s finances.
In 2013 government merged all public universities and institutes located in different regions of Rwanda into a single entity; the University of Rwanda. This led to transfer of thousands of students from one campus to another as some faculties weremoved.
The merger put together six colleges with 20 schools located in 10 campuses spread throughout the country. The UR is now headquartered in Kigali.
The Auditor General told parliament last year that the country’s highest center of learning had accumulated Rwf14bn debt. When senior officials from UR appeared before a parliamentary committee in mid-January, they said Rwf2bn of the debt had already been repaid.
The state finances controller had indicated that UR had poor accounting standards which resulted in incomplete financial statements. The University also made payments declared as performance bonuses for the stuff, mission allowance, and payments to contractors who supplied goods and services but couldn’t be properly accounted for.
The University also overpaid more than of Rwf 700 million for what was recorded as lecturers transport fees and mission allowances.
UR failed to justify the contract for construction of veterinary complex worth about Frw 4bn
abandoned since 1 December 2015 in Nyagatre campus. Also, at Rukara College, the construction of classroom blocks for around two billion francs delayed for over 437 days.
A payment was also effected to an unknown account of more than Rwf 70 million as consultancy payment to a former employee of former National University of Rwanda.
At a press conference yesterday at the University main campus in Gikondo, vice chancellor Prof Phillip Cotton and his top management team repeated the same explanation they had given in parliament as to how the debt reached that high levels.
They said when the many colleges were merged, each came with its own debt from expenses they incurred when still independent. Some of the debt was born from operational expenses incurred during the merger process which took some time to be fully completed.
For the current financial year, the central government increased the university annual budget by more than Rwf 11bn- from Rwf 25.2 bn to Rwf 36 bn – meaning a 43.6% increase of the budget.
Part of the annual budgetary allocation is to allow the university pay the remaining Rwf 12bn within 5 years. It means, the university and government will be paying Rwf 2.4bn every year.
“We have an internal strategy to finish paying off all that debt in addition to government intervention,” said Francoise Kayitare Tengera, deputy vice- chancellor in charge of finance.
Meanwhile, at the same press conference, the university administration spoke about an ongoing new restructuring operation in which 30 staff members have already lost their jobs. The laid off individuals – mainly directors of different internal support units, do not have the required qualifications for their offices, according to the UR senior administration officials.
Those sent off will be given all due terminal benefits, said the officials. A director is paid Rwf 646,807 monthly salary.
In a related development, some 160 new positions have also been created and will be advertised to attract the best talent. This, officials said, will result in a total of 700 staff for the whole university – non-teaching staff.
“This is what we call efficiency,” said Dr Papias Malimba Musafiri, deputy vice chancellor in charge of strategic planning and administration.
The University of Rwanda has more than 28,000 students, taught by some 1,600 academic staff.
Additional Reporting by Theogene Cyiza, The Chronicles