Photo courtesy: Tribhuvan University official website.
OAG asks TU to settle the accounts by mid-Feb, university seeks until mid-March
KATHMANDU, Feb 7: Tribhuvan University (TU), which has unsettled accounts of over Rs 16 billion, has claimed that it will settle these within the next 45 days. Most of the unsettled accounts pertain to the last 17 years.
According to TU, it has a total of Rs 16.66 billion in unsettled amounts, mainly from fiscal years 1999/2000 to 2016/2017. The university, which has an average annual budget of Rs 10 billion, has seen its arrears increase by Rs 2 billion annually in recent years, according to the Office of the Registrar.
The government provides TU Rs 6 billion in grant every year while its estimated annual income is Rs 1.56 billion. The country's oldest and biggest university has a total of 16,014 permanent and contract staffers, including 7,920 teaching staff and 8,094 administrative and technical staff under its 60 constituent campuses . TU has a total of 360,254 students including 142,293 (39.50 percent) in the constituent campuses and 217,961 (60.50 percent) in private or affiliated campuses across the country.
Rajendra Bahadur Shrestha, chief finance controller under the Office of the Registrar, said that the university has a total unsettled budget of Rs 16.66 billion as of fiscal year 2016/2017. "There is also an unsettled amounts since 1977. The arrears of only 53 units out of the 377 were settled till last fiscal year," he said. "We have been undergoing rigorous internal auditing for the last three months," he added.
TU is yet to settle the loans given out to staffers since 1999/2000, the regular accounts since 2013/2014 and budgetary accounts including government and other grants since 2009/2010, said Shrestha. "Since 1999/2000, Rs 700 million has been issued as loans to staff," he added.
Staff loans are issued at an interest rate of 5 percent, under three schemes. The first scheme is an 18-month plan, the second is for computer purchase and the third is for miscellaneous . "This last category accounts for the longest list of unsettled loans since 1999/2000," said Shrestha.
The Office of the Auditor General (OAG) directed all public sector entities in 2017 to complete their auditing before October. But TU started its internal auditing only in November. "We have to complete the auditing by mid-January as per the rules," claimed TU officials. "After we complete the internal auditing, OAG will do its audit."
However, Uddhav Chandra Shrestha, assistant auditor general at OAG, said that they allowed TU to complete its internal auditing by mid-February. "It is a matter of serious concern," he said.
Of the total arrears, there is evidence of irregularities involving amounts totalling Rs 882.12 million. An amount totalling Rs 1.14 billion is without submitted documents. "The remaining amounts should be mainstreamed as per the procedures," claimed Shrestha.
The trend of arrears increased since 1999/2000 as the salaries of staff were hiked. Because of this, TU started paying an additional Rs 1.5 billion annually for pensions and Rs 290 million for treatment expenses.
"As a result, Rs 2.12 billion in additional burden was incurred to pay for special retirement and under other heads each year," said Amir Raj Sindurakar, fiscal deputy controller at the Program and Budget Section of TU. "This led to increases in arrears," he said adding that loans to staff constituted another problem.
The problem has been compounded by lack of record keeping and timely updating of accounts, said TU officials. There is a problem of not settling advances taken by staffers though it's the rule that advances should be cleared within 35 days of release.
TU plans to go for advance record keeping to minimize arrears from the coming fiscal year. "We have developed the software, which will be used from next year," said Shrestha at OAG. "We are also enforcing a single treasury accounts system. This was approved by the TU Executive Council two years ago but failed to get implemented due to lack of cooperation from TU campuses," he added.