ISLAMABAD: A three-member inquiry committee constituted by the Higher Education Commission (HEC) has unearthed gross administrative and financial irregularities at the Quaid-i-Azam University (QAU).

The committee recommended the immediate removal of Vice Chancellor Dr Javed Ashraf. The 72-page inquiry report has been submitted to President Mamnoon Hussain, who is also the chancellor of the QAU.

A source in the Presidency told Dawn that the findings were being reviewed and soon a decision would be taken in the light of the recommendations. He said the findings on how the university was being run were shocking.

“The sitting vice chancellor has failed to ensure impartial, neutral and conducive working and academic environment, causing mistrust among the faculty on the systems and procedures of the university. It is, therefore, strongly recommended that the vice chancellor QAU be replaced immediately,” said the inquiry report available with Dawn.

Three-member committee formed by HEC recommends immediate removal of vice chancellor

On October 13, 2016, the HEC constituted the committee under the supervision of Dr M. A. Kamal, dean faculty of civil and environmental engineering, UET Taxila, with Dr Mazhar Saeed, the director general HEC, and Mohammad Shahid, joint chief economist at the Planning Commission, as its members.

The committee was tasked to probe several allegations of administrative and financial irregularities at the university which were sent to the HEC from the Presidency.

The QAU had objected to the formation of the inquiry committee and through a press release stated that the HEC was interfering in the affairs of the university when it was struggling to get its land retrieved from land grabbers. However, the QAU later backtracked from its statement.

HEC Chairman Dr Mukhtar Ahmed confirmed to Dawn that the report had been sent to the Presidency.

“I can’t share the findings of the report with you but HEC and the Presidency had reservations on the issues at QAU in recent years,” he said.

When contacted, VC Dr Javed Ashraf told Dawn that he had not received a copy of the report.

“I have been taking decisions on merit. The VC alone can’t take any important decision such as promotion and selection. If I am wrong, it means the entire system is wrong,” he said.

According to the report, the overall working environment at the university was not conducive for teaching and research.

“Key stakeholders such as the faculty are frustrated, harassed, mentally tortured and discriminated against by mischievous actions of the university management. If this situation persists, this will have severe impact on the overall reputation and ranking of the university. Unfortunately, sitting VC supports certain blue-eyed faculty and is party in most of the victimisation.”

The report said the university had the budgeted strength of 411 faculty members. But currently 37pc of the academic positions (almost 154) are vacant and the administration has not taken any step to fill them.

It said 50pc vacant positions of professors, associate professors and lecturers had created an academic imbalance in the university. The vacant posts of professors and associate professors affected the administrative and academic activities of the departments.

“Interestingly, 10 departments do not have professors and six are being managed by assistant professors and lecturers.”

The report said the university administration under the guidance of the VC was filling the vacant positions on their choice.

“It has been particularly observed that in many departments the university has deliberately preferred keeping senior positions vacant. Whereas junior faculty have been appointed over and above the sanctioned strength.

“The registrar office issued a notification regarding the promotion of Dr Waheed Chaudhry from backdate without any directions from the selection board and the syndicate.”

In many cases, only few internal candidates were shortlisted and selected. The prescribed procedure was not followed and decisions on the appointments were made merely on the recommendations of the deans’ committee.

As per the university rules, the VC chairs meetings of the selection board and the syndicate.

However, in some cases the VC participated in scrutiny committee meetings, influencing the first step of the selection of candidates for appointments/promotions.

“In majority of cases, the university management took two to three years to complete the recruitment process. However, the whole procedure for the promotion of Dr Mona Lisa just took 10 weeks.”

The report said despite the fact that the selection board had recommended, the syndicate approved and HEC endorsed, the VC delayed the issuance of appointment notification of Dr Bukhari as an associate professor for two years.

The selection board in many cases recommended candidates with short of required experience and requisite number of research publications.

Assigning the charge of the registrar to a faculty member having no experience was against the good governance practices and HEC guidelines.

This decision facilitated the vice chancellor in getting outcomes of his choice. In a number of cases, the administration notified promotions/appointments years before the approval of the syndicate. Thus the incumbent is made entitled to seniority and financial benefits of years contrary to the fact that they had not performed duties of the elevated position.

The report said the university administration granted long leave to the faculty, including Dr Asif Ali (15 months) and Dr Ishtiaq Ahmed (four years). But Dr Aliya H. Khan was not allowed even to see her sick mother in the summer vacations.

The university administration took an initiative to involve Mari Gas in improving infrastructure of the department of earth sciences and financing research related activities. However, the vice chancellor managed to terminate the contract and abolished the Mari Chair.

The VC presented the proposal for the closure of the department directly to the syndicate, misinforming it about the financial sustainability of the department.

The VC approached the President’s Secretariat repeatedly for increasing his perks and privileges. Though the President’s Secretariat did not accede to the request, the vice chancellor took up the case with the syndicate and misinformed it that his request was still under consideration and managed to get approval for 15 advance increments, disregarding all rules and regulations.

The university administration paid millions of rupees to the illegally promoted faculty members serving under the TTS without endorsement from the HEC. And unauthorised amount paid in lieu of backdated promotions was not recovered.

Finally, the faculty members, who had got unauthorised amount, obtained a stay order from court against the recovery.

Published in Dawn, February 28th, 2017