The announcement that an audit will be conducted into the University of Guyana (UG) is a welcome one for anti-corruption advocate Christopher Ram, who noted that in the past, staunch efforts were made to prevent scrutiny.
Ram, who was on the university’s audit committee, related in an interview with this publication that the University of Guyana’s administration did much to stave off scrutiny of their finances from both external auditors and the audit committee.
“I headed the internal audit committee of the University of Guyana council. And obstacles were put at just about every point in the process to ensure that nothing was done. And money was spent without any authority and accountability,” Ram told this publication.
According to Ram, this has been the situation for years and he expressed doubt about the last time the University had been subject to an audit. But the accountant made it clear that the time was now.
It was recently revealed that the Education Ministry had requested the Office of the Auditor General to conduct a special audit of the University of Guyana’s finances.
In February, a group of employees attached to the University of Guyana’s Turkeyen Campus had picketed the Vice-Chancellery, calling for audits into the spending of the University as it is allegedly unable to properly account for its expenditures and more so, offer a salary increase to its staffers, although tuition fees have been increasing annually.
In a release to the media, UG Vice-Chancellor, Professor Ivelaw Griffith had revealed that the Ministry of Education, in a recent letter, advised of a request made to the Auditor General’s Office for a special audit. Notwithstanding the Union’s gripe with his administration, Griffith claimed to welcome the move for an audit into UG’s finances.
“The administration welcomes the opportunity to clear the air on the allegations and assertions by the Unions and other individuals…We have long indicated such, both directly to the UG Unions and in my two recent memoranda to the University community,” he said.
UG’s administration was accused of wanton spending, including hosting several events and standing the expenses of meals and accommodation for guest speakers as well as hiring select individuals and paying them super salaries, and sending large delegations overseas, all on the University’s bill. Professor Griffith has consistently denied those claims.
The University of Guyana Senior Staff Association (UGSSA) and University of Guyana Workers Union (UGWU) have in particular levelled these accusations. The Unions had joined forces to question why monies were allocated in previous budgets to entities which do not exist and moreover, what became of those funds.
They had also demanded answers from the administration on how much money was spent on non-essential events in the last two and half years, which include but are not limited to the Law and Society series, the Turkeyen-Tain talks, and the Vice-Chancellor’s installation ceremony.
They had argued that while these monies were being spent, the core units of the University, which include faculties and schools, had been informed that no money is available for essential repairs and payment for stationery, among others.
In his 2016 report, Auditor General Deodat Sharma had found that $209 million has been unaccounted for from the University of Guyana’s Science and Technology Support Project, funded by the Government of Guyana (GoG) and the International Development Association (IDA) under Credit Agreement No 4969-GY.
However, the University had insisted that the monies were used for infrastructure projects on the campus, including a fibre optic cable to provide students with Wi-Fi. It had also noted that some of the monies were used to renovate the faculty buildings.