Government comes to the rescue of University of Rwanda funding woes

Tuesday October 10 2017

The money from the government will enable the University of Rwanda to pay its lecturers upto December. PHOTO | CYRIL NDEGEYA | NMG

The money from the government will enable the University of Rwanda to pay its lecturers upto December. PHOTO | CYRIL NDEGEYA | NMG 

By JOHNSON KANAMUGIRE
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The Rwandan government has moved to plug the funding crisis facing the University of Rwanda (UR) by paying staff salaries. The institution found itself unable to pay staff and meet its operational costs amid reports of resource mismanagement.

The long-standing financial constraints saw UR staff grapple with delayed salaries over the past six months with students unable to go for field visits, attend laboratory classes among other academic operations that stalled.

Samuel Mulindwa, the Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Education said the Ministry of Finance had agreed to pay UR staff salaries until December.

This is pending a new funding model that could see Rwf9 billion ($10.6m) added to the university's budget in the revised budget.

Mr Mulindwa said this could see the four-year old institution increase its funding from the current Rwf17.7 ($20.9m) billion to Rwf26.7 billion ($31.6m).

“This is still a draft proposal agreed on between UR, the education and finance ministries. We expect that it will solve the problem of unpaid staff salaries and operational costs,” he said.

The total UR costs in the new funding model are expected to reach Rwf39 billion ($46.2) of which Rwf26.7 billion ($31.6m) will be contributed by the government while the rest will be generated by the institution

Mr Mulindwa said the proposed funding model was based on what officials of the university estimated as the average unit cost per school and should enable UR to incurring financial constraints.

Funding crisis

The university’s funding woes became a subject of discussion recently when top UR officials appeared before the Public Accounts Committee of parliament to answer queries raised in the Auditor General’s report.

Details emerged that the funding crisis keeps getting worse with staff yet to receive their September salaries, in addition to arrears and accruing mission and overtime fees.

University officials say the situation will not change unless there is a reliable funding model to help the University achieve financial sustainability. Deputy Vice-Chancellor in charge of institutional advancement Charles Murigande said the crisis was affecting the quality of education.

University officials say financial problems started taking a toll on the institution’s operations when the government reduced tuition fees, which is the main revenue source for the institution. The unit cost for both science and non-science courses was Rwf600,000 ($711) in 2014.

However, the fees were recently increased to Rwf900,000 ($1,067), and Rwf1.5 million ($1,778) for STEM courses.

Rwanda Today learnt that UR — the country’s flagship university — only generates Rwf13 billion when it’s total wage bill is Rwf25 billion ($3.3m).

In a separate session two weeks ago, Rwanda Education Board director-general Janvier Gasana told MPs that they disbursed over Rwf2.8 billion to UR on June 6 to help it with the salaries crisis.

Financial malpractices

However, despite the funding gaps, the university has been accused of wasting money through rampant financial malpractices.

MPs raised concerns about UR’s failure to account for close to Rwf240.5 million ($285,141) allocated to the university last year, as per the Auditor-General’s 1,000-page report on UR.

University of Rwanda’s acting Vice Chancellor for Administration and Finance Jean Pierre Nkuranga told the public account committee that most resource mismanagement was based on errors by individual colleges.

The Ministry of Education said a joint team of accountants was constituted to carry out an assessment into the root causes of issues that plague the institution. Based on the findings, the government will decide on the necessary reforms to make in a bid to improve efficiency.