Rwanda: University of Rwanda on the Spot Over U.S.$16 Million Debt

Prof Philip Cotton, University of Rwanda’s Vice-Chancellor, greets students at the graduation ceremony held in Huye in 2018.
15 January 2019

The University of Rwanda has outlined a five-year plan of how to pay Rwf14 billion it owes to different suppliers and some members of its staff.

The plan was revealed yesterday by the university's officials as they appeared before the Senate to explain management and accounting discrepancies noted by the Auditor General's report for the fiscal year 2016/17.

Those who appeared before the Senate in Kigali include the university's Deputy Vice-Chancellor in charge of Academic Affairs, Nelson Ijumba, the Deputy Vice-Chancellor in charge of Strategic Planning and Administration, Papias Malimba Musafiri, and the Deputy Vice-Chancellor in charge of Finance, Françoise Kayitare Tengera.

Tengera told senators that the university inherited numerous challenges related to the merger of different institutions when it was created in 2013.

University of Rwanda's Deputy Vice-Chancellor in charge of Strategic Planning and Administration, Papias Malimba Musafiri, makes a point during the meeting at the Senate yesterday. Sam Ngendahimana.

One of the challenges she cited was the accumulated arrears that affiliated universities owed to their different service providers during the time of their merger.

Among the unsettled payments include staff pension remittances, mission allowances, performance bonuses for staff as well as goods and services from suppliers.

The Government has accepted to allocate funds to pay the arrears, Tengera.

"The government has taken over the issue and we should be done paying within the next five years," Tengera told The New Times yesterday shortly after meeting the legislators.

The issue of arrears is one of the numerous accounting problems that have dogged the university since it was created five years ago.

Officials said yesterday that many of its accounting flaws are partly due to poor accounting systems inherited from affiliated colleges.

Senators urged the university leadership to stop blaming the merger because they have the responsibility to efficiently manage the new institution.

"You can't keep on blaming poor management of funds to the merger of institutions. How come a body of intellectuals like the UR can't do proper accounting?" Senate president Bernard Makuza said.

Senator Chrysologue Karangwa urged the university to create proper systems of accountability.

"There is lack of a proper accountability system at the university and you need to give us reassurance that this year it will get a clean audit report. We need to be clear on this," he said.

He also condemned a situation where people offer services to the university and it takes long for them to get paid, advising that once the university pays the arrears compensation for the delays made should also be paid.

"These people were denied their rights and should be compensated for it," he said.

The AG's report for 2016/17 highlighted different accounting errors at the university, such as omitted bank accounts from its books of accounts, closed bank accounts that still appeared in the university's books, missing individual students' ledger accounts, as well as 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 while, on the other hand, some infrastructure and facilities at the university remained idle as a result of re-organisation of colleges.

The Deputy Vice-Chancellor in charge of Academic Affairs said some of those issues had been fixed since the AG's report was published.

He promised that the varsity's leadership was committed to further improve its management.

"We are making good progress in terms of addressing the comments made by the Auditor General," Ijumba said.

Established in 2013 through the merger of seven public institutions of higher learning, University of Rwanda is the country's largest state-owned institution of higher learning.

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