If we all understand the impetus that global rankings give, then every Akokite will jealously guard the brand University of Lagos. With a UniRank placing the university (UNILAG) on 12th position among Universities in Africa, it should naturally behove concerned staff, students as well as alumni to stand up and protect her image and reputation in capacities that they can.
Since the beginning of the issue bordering on calls for accountability that rocked the institution, there had been various versions of the story. There had been sides of the story passing blame, while some others have dug deeper and did well to present pockets of fact. In my opinion, we should have had enough of those by now and eagerly want to move on!
However, for reasons of the importance of giving some background information to enable people understand and appreciate the need to run with a magnificent brand, I will refer to what I consider ‘recommendations’ by one of those many reports.
While the university management fell into troubled waters following the collapse of a new library building under construction, naturally, there were calls for the construction company to be withdrawn from the project site. There were cries still that the same company got back to the site wanting to continue with the work. Certainly, it will be difficult for that to be allowed and I hope that all parties will make judgement with the reality on ground. Particularly, though there were frowns on the University Governing Council getting someone, Dr. Saminu Dagari a chemistry major at the Tafawa Balewa University, Bauchi State, with no accounting or auditing background to audit the financial status of the university, there is a need to consider the committee’s review.
The committee submitted that there were mismanagement of finances in the university, and that the authorities dished out contracts without due process. So, the committee recommended a closer-nit monitoring and evaluation system when it has to do with the finances of the school.
To ensure a proper monitoring for effective action, the committee wants a system that will grant monthly or quarterly approvals for proper management, and by that way, it is easier to address any suspicious financial mismanagement. “The committee then recommended: monthly or quarterly limits for all approvals, reorganisation of expenditure control and internal audit units, automation of the revenue and expenditure processes…,” Lekan Sote, a columnist and an alumnus of UNILAG had written.
In that, the committee believes that the university will be able to make informed judgements. For the purpose of guarding the excellence of this prestigious school, it should be a recommendation for embrace without an option. Like the Pro-chancellor, Dr. Wale Babalakin said, it was evident there were lapses with internal control structure, but that the very important thing to do was to immediately correct the anomalies that were observed. Simple and clear. For the crucial matter, which cannot be swept under the carpet, the Governing Council and all committees at the heart of the issue should sit at round table and agree on which office gets superior place in the hierarchy of control. But, at this point anyway, it makes more sense that each group checks the other for the purpose of transparency.
Drawing copiously from Sote’s piece, the provisions of the Procurement Act of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, on one hand, and that of the University of Lagos Act, on the other, have empowered the different parties differently, as quoted here;
“Section 20 of the Procurement Act provides that: “(1) The Accounting Officer… shall be the person charged with line supervision of the conduct of the procurement processes… (and) (2) shall have overall responsibility for the planning, organization, and evaluation tenders and execution of all procurements.” “Also, Section 111(i) of the Federal Government Financial Regulations defines Accounting Officer, as “The Permanent Secretary of a Ministry, or the Head of a parastatal, and other arms of Government, who is in full control of, and is responsible for human, material and financial resources, which are critical inputs in the management of the organisation.”
“Section 111(ii) adds: “The Accounting Officer shall: be responsible for safeguarding of public funds and the regularity and propriety of expenditure under his control; observe and comply fully with the checks and balances spelt out in the existing Financial Regulations…. and, note that his accountability does not cease by virtue of his leaving office…”
“And Section 113 provides that “an Accounting Officer shall preside over the Tenders Board of his agency; ensure adequate appropriation for procurements; establish a procurement committee; render annual returns of procurements to the Bureau of Public Procurements; and ensure compliance with the Public Procurement Act.” “But Section 7(1) of the University of Lagos Act provides that “The council shall be charged with the general control and superintendence of the policy, finance, and property of the university.” “Also, Section 7(2) provides for “… the Finance and General Purposes Committee, which shall exercise control over the property and expenditure of the University.”
“Section 7(4) provides that: “The Council shall ensure that proper accounts of the University… are audited annually by auditors appointed by the Council… and that an annual report is published by the University, together with the certified copies of the said accounts as audited.”
Though the Procurement Act, which applies to all ministries, departments and agencies, provides that the Accounting Officer, in this case, the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Oluwatoyin Ogundipe, should chair the board, and the Audit Committee recommending placing of the Tenders Board of the university under the Chairman of the Governing Council, the best position now should be transparency in all financial dealings by the school. This is very important because the excellence of UNILAG cannot be undermined by any individual’s singular interest, and if the overall interest be that of the institution, it becomes absolutely important that the dominant word remains “UNILAG FIRST.”
At this point, making a list of eminent Nigerians who have passed through UNILAG will certainly be too long. So, I simply mention Nigeria’ present Vice President, the erudite Professor of Law, Yemi Osinbajo, and many others who have continued to make the institution proud in diligent service to the nation both at home and abroad. UNILAG has built a worthy reputation for itself over the years in its quality of academic training and character-building. This should not be dragged in mud. After all said and done, we want our UNILAG to remain as magnificent as always.
Orivri, a graduate student of mass communication, wrote from UNILAG.