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Cash-strapped Peshawar varsity denied grant

Updated August 26, 2018

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PESHAWAR: The higher education department has turned down a request of the cash-strapped University of Peshawar for Rs2 billion grant, saying the last PTI government had banned allocation of funds to the varsities for non-developmental expenditure.

The staff members fear that the unavailability of funds will further delay payments to the university’s current and former employees.

Sources said the university faced an acute financial crisis and so, it paid employees 15 to 20 days behind schedule.

Employees fear further delay in payments

They said the university had to pay around Rs1 billion pension to former employees every year but it had only Rs400 million for the purpose.

The sources blamed the university’s financial crisis on large payments to pensioners, overstaffing and phasing out of academic programmes, including BA/BSc and MA/MSc.

Sources in the higher education department said the university had sought Rs2 billion grant to overcome financial problems but the request was rejected in line with the last PTI government’s decision that not a single penny would be given to any university for non-developmental expenditure in the current budget.

They said funds could be given to public sector universities for development and not for payment of salary and pension.

The sources said the provincial government had given Rs140 million to the Gomal University, Dera Ismail Khan, in the last financial year but the amount was a loan and not grant.

They said the Gomal University faced financial problems.

Sources in the UoP said 475 Class-IV employees were recruited by the successive vice-chancellors against 150 sanctioned posts.

They said the university paid those employees from own resources as the Higher Education Commission didn’t give funds for the purpose.

The sources said the VCs had recruited additional employees, especially low-grade ones, over political consideration.

They said the university’s establishment and planning section had repeatedly asked the successive VCs to take up the issue with the HEC for provision of funds on annual basis but the latter didn’t do so fearing their failure to justify overstaffing.

When contacted, spokesman for the UoP Ali Imran Bangash said the university required Rs1 billion every year to pay pension to former employees but it had Rs400 million only for the purpose.

He said in the last decade, the university annually increased salary and pension of the employees in line with the federal government’s annual budgetary announcements.

The spokesman said the HEC didn’t make appropriate funding to the university and therefore, the latter had to manage money for the purpose from own resources, the major reason for the current financial crunch.

He said besides 1,500 pensioners, the university had also been paying pension to 262 former employees of the Islamia College University, Peshawar, its constituent college upgraded to the university in 2008.

Mr Bangash said when the college was upgraded to the university, all its assets including precious properties and markets were shifted to the university but the UoP paid pension to the employees retired before that.

He said VC Dr Mohammad Asif Khan had introduced austerity measures to overcome financial crisis.

The spokesman said the university’s transport foundation had been revamped to generate money, while hostels would generate Rs20 million annually after dislodging ‘outsiders’.

He added that the markets built on campus were retendered to generate Rs20 million annually unlike the past when they produced nominal amount of money.

“For the first time, the university has prepared an annual plan to generate the maximum revenue and will make all efforts to achieve target,” he said.

Published in Dawn, August 26th, 2018