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ISLAMABAD: The federal auditor has pointed out significant irregularities in the accounts of the National Institute of Science Technology (NISTE), from irregular utilisation of utility charges to the irregular leasing of institute buildings.

NISTE, which was recently upgraded to the capital’s first skills university, is a subsidiary of the Ministry of Federal Education and Professional Training. It has been running without a director general, with Director Administration Sohail Ahmed currently looking after the institution’s administrative affairs.

NISTE has faced a number of irregularities in its accounts over the last several years.

Irregularities include utilisation of utility charges, leasing of institute’s buildings

The 2017-18 special audit has found irregular utilisation of utility charges worth Rs15.4 million, stating that NISTE’s management leased various portions of a building to different organisations and received utility charges for the consumption of gas and electricity. The audit said NISTE received Rs1.1m in utility charges from 360 Technologies, and Rs14.4m from Comsats and the National Testing Service.

The auditor pointed out that NISTE paid the utility bills from its government budget, but deposited the sum collected from its tenants in a private Income Generated Programme (IGP) account.

The sum has been used to pay employees and meet other expenditures.

“Audit is of the view that amount received on the account of utility charges and deposited into IGP account and then its utilization for other purposes like payment of remuneration and etc. was mis-utilization,” the audit report said.

The report also said that the management had responded that it was at the discretion of the NISTE director general to place the collected sum in a private account and use it to meet expenditures, and that the expenditures were in line with approved policy. However, the response was rejected by the auditor.

The auditor also pointed out that NISTE rented its buildings - F single storey and F double storey – on Faiz Ahmed Faiz Road in H-8/1 to the Global System of Integrated Studies (GSIS) School and College on Aug 9, 2017.

“HEC is considering to declare the NISTE as a university but management is engaged in renting out its building to other organization which is alarming,” the auditor observed, adding that the buildings were rented without any assessment from the Ministry of Housing and Works, which determines rent rates.

NISTE had signed a two-year agreement with GSIS – between Oct 1 last year and Sept 30, 2019. Leasing buildings while the NISTE’s case to be awarded university status was under consideration showed deliberate efforts to delay this process.

The auditors said that the NISTE had replied that its agreement with GSIS had already been cancelled, but GSIS had gone to court, and the situation would be handled in light of court directors.

In another audit para, auditors revealed that NISTE had made an irregular deal with 360 Technologies, causing Rs210m worth or irregularities because of an unauthorised public-private partnership agreement. In this case, several NISTE employees had been received fixed remuneration, which the auditors said was illegal.

The report also highlighted several other audit paras of irregularities, including unauthorised promotions and employee upgrades, irregular regulations of contract employees, unauthorised remunerations to employees and unauthorised use of official vehicles.

NISTE sources said that the 2017-18 audit had almost been finalised, but the audit paras could be discussed in a meeting of the Departmental Accounts Committee.

When contacted, NISTE Director Administration Sohail Ahmed confirmed that auditors had recently conducted a special audit, but said that these were not audit paras but audit observations.

“We have submitted our points of view against all the audit observations. Maybe before finalising the special audit 2017-18, the auditors will settle some of paras,” he said.

He said that as far as the GSIS case was concerned, the NISTE cancelled the deal in the initial stages when the matter came to the notice of the education ministry, but the school management had filed a case in court.

He added that the case of renting out a building to 360 Technologies was being examined by the education ministry.

Published in Dawn, January 29th, 2018