ISLAMABAD: A parliamentary committee on Monday directed the authorities to take action against the former rector of Comsats University, who was reemployed at the end of his tenure, for offering dual-degree programmes without approval from the Higher Education Commission (HEC).
A six-member subcommittee of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), which met at Parliament House for a session convened by Senator Sherry Rehman, was informed that Comsats had begun dual-degree programmes without approval from the HEC and that no action was taken against those who began the programme and put the careers of 2,532 students at risk.
The committee recommended that the degrees of these students should be recognised by the HEC.
When committee members asked what action had been taken against the officers responsible, they were told that the registrar and treasurer had retired and the rector reemployed as the executive director.
Parliamentarians shocked to learn official was reemployed as ED
The committee members were shocked that the rector was reemployed at a higher post instead of facing action. They recommended action against all the officials involved and directed the HEC to recognise the students’ degrees.
The Comsats Institute of Information Technology Lahore offered a dual-degree programme under a joint venture with the University of Lancaster, in which 2,532 students were enrolled from 2010 to 2014. The university earned Rs495.6 million from fees for this programme.
According to audit officers, the programme had no legal authority because it began without approval from the HEC.
The audit para discussed at Monday’s meeting had recommended that “responsibility should be fixed for putting the careerof students at risk and starting the program without having cleared legal formalities for the program.”
The para, however, said that Comsats defended the programme and declared it beneficial for students.
The audit report said an inquiry was carried out that held the rector, registrar and treasurer responsible. It said the committee had recommended action against them and the HEC was directed to issue policy guidelines for universities to sign ICAs.
The report said the departmental audit committee (DAC) was apprised that action needed to be taken by the HEC had been taken and guidelines for signing ICAs were available on the commission’s website.
The audit report said the DAC noted that no action has been taken so far to implement the inquiry committee’s other recommendations, even though the inquiry report was finalised in April 2018.
Acting Comsats Rector Dr Raheel Qamar told the meeting on Monday that the Lahore High Court had decided the matter in favour of the students, but the HEC filed an intra-court appeal and the matter remains in court.
The committee members said parliamentarians were in favour of the students and their degrees should be recognised. They criticised the HEC was filing an appeal to create obstacles for students.
The committee was also shocked by corruption allegations against the management of the Federal Urdu University of Arts, Science and Technology during the tenure of former vice chancellor Dr Zafar Iqbal, who obtained bail in cases registered against him.
While discussing audit paras related to the university, the committee also expressed concern over the university for buying land in Zone IV of the capital without approach land. The purchase of land in a unfeasible area was referred to the Federal Investigation Agency to complete the probe within six weeks.
On other audit paras related to HEC, the committee expressed its displeasure with the HEC, National Accountability Bureau, Auditor General of Pakistan and other departments for lack of coordination. Senator Rehman said that action could be initiated against the principal accounting officer in case of noncompliance with the committee’s directives.
Published in Dawn, January 28th, 2020