LAHORE: The Higher Education Commission on Tuesday constituted a fact-finding committee to probe into the allegations of irregularities in the Foreign Faculty Hiring Programme (FFHP) at the Government College University’s Abdus Salam School of Mathematical Sciences.

The committee was also mandated to review the operation of FFHP at other universities in the country.

The three-member committee will probe the matter and submit its recommendations to the competent authority within a month.

The committee will not probe into the matters being investigated by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) at the GCU, Lahore. It will address the overall concerns arising out of the reports published in a section of the Press, and being commented upon on social media.

FFHP operation in other varsities to be reviewed as well

The FFHP was launched by HEC in 2003 to hire qualified academics and researchers for offering technical support in development of new programmes, trainings for teaching and research and building capacity for PhD supervision.

The programme was not limited to the GCU, and around 40 other universities across Pakistan benefited from the qualified visiting experts hired under it. Over 300 highly qualified professors joined various universities under the programme.

The HEC had taken notice after an internal inquiry team of the GCU Abdus Salam School of Mathematical Sciences (ASSMS) found “dubious payments” amounting to $7 million (Rs638m) made to ‘ghost’ foreign faculty members from 2003 to 2013.

The inquiry team had also called for a detailed probe into the matter by the NAB.

The ASSMS under HEC programme had hired faculty members from foreign universities for teaching, research and supervision of students from 2003 to 2013. It had received a major share of the FFHP funding worth Rs638m meant for payment of salaries and air fare to the foreign faculty.

As many as 58 foreign faculty members were hired for a period ranging from a few months up to eight years in some cases. The faculty members were paid monthly salaries which were deposited with their accounts opened with the help of the school in a local bank.

Published in Dawn, November 13th, 2019