Many Irregularities at Jaffna University Highlighted in Auditor – General Report

By Ranjit J. Perera

The Auditor General in his report on the affairs of the University of Jaffna, for the year ended 31 December 2013, appears to have effectively obscured attention on several problems in this important seat of learning in north Sri Lanka. The report was published in the Government gazette just one day before a clash between two student groups forced the closure of the university on Saturday, 16 July.

The report states that dates to hold the examinations for various courses conducted under each faculty of the University and target dates to release results of the examinations had not been determined. The AG has observed that there were considerable delays in releasing the results of examinations ranging from one to 22 months from the date of examinations by the faculties of Agriculture, Arts, Management Studies and Commerce, Science and External Examination unit of the University during the years 2012 and 2013.

According to the University Grants Commission Circular No. 636 of 14 July 1995, the results of examinations should be released within three months after the examination. But, results had been delayed by a significant period as mentioned above, according to the report; thereby depriving students the opportunity to obtain employment in a timely manner.

Highlighting the inefficiencies in management, the report states that 148 lecturers of the university who went on scholarship had not reported back for duty after completion of the scholarships. However, the university had not taken necessary action to recover sums aggregating Rs. 82,334,517 as at 31 December 2013 from 148 lecturers for breach of agreements.

It also states that payments of Rs. 493,360 had been made to a private company on the service agreement for 23 photocopiers. However, although they should have been serviced on 12 occasions as per the contract agreement for the year under review, at the rate of one per month for all photocopy machines within the contract period, services have been carried out only on four to seven occasions. As a result, a sum of Rs. 246,680 had been overpaid to that company.

The manner in which the university has obtained the services of a private company for the preparation of a fixed assets register has also been reported on adversely by the Auditor General. A contract agreement had been entered into on 18 November 2013 for the service of preparation of the fixed assets register of the University – which had been outsourced at a cost of Rs. 3,150,000 – from a private company.

The AG has stated that although the work should have been completed on or before 18 February 2014 as per the contract agreement, the work had not been completed even up to 30 October 2014 – a lapse of eight months. As per the information made available for audit, 25% of the works only had been completed up to June 2014. Further, the prior approval for the extension had not been obtained, the report stated.

Among other deficiencies in management, the report states that in terms of Section 11.1 of Chapter XXII of the Establishment Code for the University Grants Commission and Higher Educational Institutions, the inquiry officer should complete the inquiries within a period of three months. Even though four inquiry boards had been appointed to conduct inquiries against the officers who had been interdicted on disciplinary grounds and fraudulent activities, the inquiry board had not completed its proceedings within the specified period of time. As a result, interdicted officers were paid full salaries without obtaining prior approval/authority from the University Grants Commission.

The report has also observed that the interdiction given to a professor had been subsequently withdrawn and requested to report back for duties with full salary.

The Council of the University had also decided to reinstate terminated staff by considering the appeals from various parties based on sympathetic grounds without considering the provision laid down in Paragraph 20:16 of Chapter III of the Establishments Code for the University Grants Commission and Higher Educational Institutions and the Letter No. UGC/HR/3/1/6 dated 28 September 2012 forwarded by the Chairman of the UGC.

It was in 1974 that a campus of the University of Sri Lanka was established by an order made by the then Minister of Education Badi-Ud-Din Mahmud. The campus became an independent and autonomous university bearing the name University of Jaffna on 1 January 1979. From humble beginnings in a 30-acre campus of the then Parameshwara College premises, the university is today home to eight faculties with 57 academic departments, several service/academic/support units and centres and a Campus at Vavuniya, about 130 km south of Jaffna.

The University of Jaffna is one of 15 universities and 18 institutes for which students are selected by the University Grants Commission (UGC) to pursue higher studies and obtain a relevant qualification under the Sri Lanka Qualifications Framework (SLQF). In 2014 it produced 1,166 graduates while in 2015 the number increased slightly to 1,189 graduates including those at the Vavuniya Campus.

Provisional figures indicate that the Sri Lanka Government expenditure on higher education had increased to over Rs. 50 billion in 2015 as against just over Rs. 19 billion in 2010. Of this sum, over Rs. 40 billion had been spent on university education in 2015 compared to Rs. 15 billion in 2010.

At the end of 2013, the University of Jaffna had 5,723 students registered with a total expenditure of Rs. 815,147,732.00 according to the Auditor General. According figures available on the UGC website, Government grants to the University of Jaffna increased progressively from Rs. 1,545,849.00 in 2013 to Rs. 2,594,674.00 in 2015. However, other income declined from Rs. 99,912.00 in 2013 to Rs. 55,158.00 in 2015.

In the academic year 2014/1015, there were 2,359 undergraduate admissions to the University of Jaffna of whom 1,489 were female. Among them were 1,338 Tamil students 780 Sinhala, 231 Moor and 10 others. There were also 514 postgraduate student enrolments at the university in 2015.

The Auditor General also states that books and periodicals purchased during the period December 2012 to March 2013, through 20 paid vouchers aggregating Rs. 1,572,450 had been forged as payment had been made without receiving these items. In this connection, the university had not taken action to recover the payment from the parties responsible. Further, this payment had been transferred to a loss on the books and periodicals suspense account by a journal entry and the internal and external inquiry processes are in progress with a view to recovering the losses.

The report also shows an excess of 43 temporary academic staff. However, while the approved staff strength of the University of Jaffna is 1,381, the actual staff strength is 1,142 with 282 vacancies. Of these vacancies, only 130 vacancies were for key academic posts and the reasons for the delay in recruitment had not been furnished to the Auditor General.

The Auditor General has also noted that although the buildings, resource persons and all other facilities were made available at the university, the lectures for the fourth year study programme for LLB students had been conducted in a rented building obtained on the basis of Rs. 100,000 rent per month in Colombo and a sum of Rs. 6,630,000 had been paid as rental up to 31 December 2013.

Several other irregularities at the university have also been pointed out by the Auditor General.

The Vice Chancellor of the University of Jaffna Professor Vasanthy Arasaratnam, who was asked for her comments via email, initially stated that she would be away for one week and would respond to the Auditor General’s comments after getting the observations of the relevant administrative officers. However she later replied stating, “We have been upset about the present situation, I (will) look into it soon.”

Courtesy:Daily FT