Members of the parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC) yesterday urged the management of the University of Rwanda to improve the institution's accounting practices and move swiftly to efficiently manage the university's teaching resources.
They made the call while meeting the university's leaders in a public hearing at Parliament where University of Rwanda (UR) officials were asked to give explanations about different management and accounting discrepancies noted in the Auditor General's report for the fiscal year 2016/17.
The report, which was published at the end of April, indicated accounting errors such as omitted bank accounts from the UR's books of account, closed bank accounts that still appeared in the university's books of account, missing individual students' ledger accounts, and missing lists of creditors among others.
It also noted issues that affect the quality of students' education such as the absence of teaching facilities for relocated programmes at different colleges including the Kigali-based College of Science and Technology (CST), Rukara-based College of Education, and the Huye-based College of Arts and Social Sciences (CASS).
On the other hand, some infrastructure and facilities at the university remained idle as a result of re-organisation of colleges.
"It is worth noting that while buildings and structures are idle in some campuses, UR is putting up new ones in other locations where there is shortage of such facilities. Such a mismatch could be attributed to poor cost benefit analysis in planning the re-organisation and resulting relocations and closures," the Auditor General noted.
Moreover, the Auditor General (AG) noted cases of unutilised laboratory and workshop equipment at the university due to lack of maintenance, repairs, and supply of spare parts and reagents.
From different UR colleges and campuses, audits by the AG identified 172 cases of laboratory and workshop equipment that were out of service due to lack of maintenance and repair, spare parts, training, as well as reagents and chemicals required for their use.
"Since the creation of UR in September 2013, the institution had not entered into any maintenance contract for the laboratory equipment with a service provider. The absence of functional workshop and laboratory equipment is hampering the delivery of science courses at the University of Rwanda," the AG noted in his report.
Several members of PAC told the university's leaders that it was not acceptable for the university's staff to fail at properly managing its accounting books or for learning resources to remain useless.
"How can we have idle assets at campuses when they were built to facilitate students? If students have spent four years without receiving a good education, that has a negative impact on them," said Juvénal Nkusi, Chairperson of PAC.
MP Marie Médiatrice Izabiriza, a member of PAC, urged the university's leaders to use the AG's report in order to correct mistakes that were made in the past so they can bring about efficient management of the university's resources.
"The university should have an operational plan that responds to the issues mentioned by the AG's report," she said.
The university's leaders promised the MPs that they will correct mistakes noted by the AG and pledged that the institution will be better organised in the future.
UR's Chair of the Board of Governors, Prof Paul Davenport, told MPs that the university's leaders made a lot of changes to make it work and promised that more changes will be made to fill the existing room for improvement.
"I hope you believe in our desire to do better," he told the parliamentarians during yesterday's hearing.
Shortly after the hearings, UR's Vice-chancellor, Prof. Phillip Cotton, told The New Times that comments made by the AG and Parliamentarians are right.
He agreed that there is a need for the people who are responsible for the teaching, learning, and research at the university to take responsibility for their own areas.
"The findings of the report suggest that people, and we collectively, haven't been as diligent as we might be. So, you have to reflect deeply when you receive a report like this," he said.
Cotton said that the university's staff will move to reduce the amount of idle space and equipment in order to efficiently manage available resources for students' benefits.
"The task for us is to make sense of all the equipment and all of the space we have got so that we reduce the amount of idle space and idle equipment particularly if something, in laying idle, denies students the opportunities to learn," he said.
Established five years ago through the merger of seven public institutions of higher learning, University of Rwanda is the country's largest and only public institution of higher learning.