KARACHI, March 3: For the first time in decades, employees of Karachi University would not be paid their salaries on time because of a financial crisis gripping the KU. “There is no money to pay teachers, buy chemicals, improve university’s dilapidated infrastructure or provide transport service to students,” sources told Dawn.
The crisis at hand has been caused by massive financial and administrative mismanagement by the KU administration, they said.
The major problems, according to them, were massive internal borrowing, large number of appointments and university administration’s refusal to cut down its own expenses —including expenditure of millions of rupees on the maintenance of university vehicles and unjustified overtime — despite being aware of financial constraints.
However, they said, the crisis had struck at a time when funds from the university’s lucrative unaudited evening programme have also dried up.
“The university was relying on these funds for the past few years but now they have also been exhausted,” said university officials. “These funds were the university’s lifeline since funds being received from the Higher Education Commission (HEC) were not enough.”
According to university officials, besides hundreds of illegal appointments made during the tenure of former vice chancellor Prof Dr Pirzada Qasim Raza Siddiqui the present administration made at least appointed or promoted 180 teachers last year.
“These appointments should not have been made while considering the fact that the university has reverted to the old bachelors’ and masters’ programmes,” said a senior faculty member. “But they appointments were made against budgeted and non-budgeted posts.”
According to him, the administration had had no foresight to plan for the approaching financial crunch and had continued to exhaust its reserves. “Even saving certificates were sold last year so that employees could be paid,” shared another faculty member.
The teachers also expressed surprise over university administration’s policy of continuing with the current Tenure Track Scheme (TTS) and taking funds from the HEC, despite the fact that the commission had been reluctant to provide money for the varsity’s basic needs.
“The university administration did not have any qualms about asking the HEC to provide funds for the TTS, under which salaries of some teachers would be doubled without any transparent selection procedure,” they said.
When Dawn contacted KU director finance Qazi Zafar Abbas, he confirmed that around 180 appointments or promotions had taken place last year. However, he insisted that they had been necessary and had been made after following the relevant procedures.
“The syndicate approved all appointments and promotions taken place last year,” he explained. “They had been pending since 2010.”
According to him, the actual reason for the current financial crisis was the HEC’s ‘failure’ in releasing required funds, which have increased considerably because of salary raises twice awarded to all government employees including university staff.
“We don’t have enough money to pay salaries,” said Mr Abbas, “And the same situation would arise every month because all of university’s reserves have dried up.”
He said that last year the administration had been forced to sell saving certificates worth between Rs60 million and rs70 million to be able to the employees’ salaries. “Such certificates were meant to be sold in difficult times,” he said.
Talking about steps being taken to guide the varsity out of this crisis, he said that the administration was constantly in touch with the HEC officials and had also reminded the chancellor, Sindh Governor Dr Isratul Ibad, several times about the monetary issues being faced by the varsity.
“A month ago the chancellor had ordered immediate release of Rs240 million by the Sindh government,” said the finance director. “But, unfortunately, the funds have still not been released.”
He said that KU’s estimated expenditure and income for financial year 2012-2013 was Rs2,785 million and Rs1,787 million respectively. “This meant that there was a deficit of Rs998 million which was chiefly incurred because of lack of funds for paying increased salaries.”
He said that out of the Rs1,159 million committed by the HEC, only Rs580 million had been released in the past seven months. “Though the HEC assured us that it would give Rs116 million within a week, no money has been released during the past month.”
He pointed out that the total salary budget stood at Rs1,666 million while Rs35 million had to be paid in the form of various bills. If the bill are not paid on time, he added, the university would also have pay a surcharge of 10 per cent.
When asked what effect the lack of funds would have on research, Mr Abbas replied that there had been no funds for research even last year. However, more than Rs10 million had had been granted for research this year, he said.
The KU vice chancellor was not available for his comments. Meanwhile, a university officials talking about the TTS, explained that it had nothing to do with regular funds and the HEC provided separate funds for TTS schemes.
The president of Karachi University Teachers’ Society, Dr Mutahir Ahmed, also corroborated the appointments/promotions of 180 teachers, saying that the appointed teachers had been working as cooperative teachers for a long time.
“The actual issue is the mindset of the government,” he explained. “It doesn’t look at education and health as areas of vital importance. As for illegal appointments, the matter has become ‘vague’ since there so many differences on the exact number of these appointments.”