Enhancing better access to funds in TETFund
The inability of the public tertiary institutions to access their allocated funds at the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund) has remained a major issue confronting the institutions over the years, even in the face of funding challenges coupled with the expanding student population and attendant infrastructural demands.
As a result, the Fund, therefore, decided to change the narrative with a view to identifying the factors and adopting a partnership approach by engaging them directly to make them globally competitive in the execution of its mandate. This approach, it seems, could offer a better alternative, going by the disclosure from the Fund.
One of such partnership engagements was a recent Access Clinic and Project Proposal Defence parley, held with some of the institutions, which cut across the three strata of the benefiting institutions, including universities, polytechnics and colleges of education.
The programme afforded the agency the opportunity to appreciate the challenges facing the institutions in implementing its interventions and to re-examine its processes with a view to re-focusing them for efficient and effective service delivery. Apart from identifying what the real challenges facing the tertiary institutions were, the TETFund Executive Secretary, Dr. Abdullahi Bichi Baffa said the forum had brought up other salient issues, which are hitherto unknown but have hampered prompt access of the funds by the benefiting institutions. He explained to newsmen in Abuja that the decision to embark on the programme was in fulfillment of his earlier pronouncement in February to ensuring that the 2016 intervention allocations are accessed and judiciously utilised by all concerned.
The parley allowed benefitting institutions to submit and present their proposals for defence and reconciliation before a panel, while TETFund would in turn, train officials of the institutions on its guidelines and processes. Baffa assured that regular sensitization and enlightenment campaigns on the Fund’s interventions would be carried out while its operations would be restructured for optimal performance with staff training given priority attention for effective service delivery.
Going by the successes recorded in the programme, Baffa disclosed that TETFund would institutionalize the Access Clinic and Project Proposal Defence as a yearly event in order to reduce the challenges faced by the institutions in accessing their interventions. He, however, emphasized that projects by the institutions would be effectively monitored to ensure accountability and value for money.
Baffa explained that the introduction of the project Proposal Defence, for the first time in the 24 years of its existence, was to “shorten the process of obtaining Approval-in-Principle (AIP) from the Fund and eliminate the back and forth communication which, sometimes, delayed the execution of projects/programmes.”
Giving a breakdown of beneficiary institutions that made presentations at the programme, the TETFund chief disclosed that a total of 181 beneficiary institutions, comprising 74 universities, 50 Polytechnics and 57 colleges of education defended their proposals based on the 2016 allocations issued.
He clarified that 16 institutions that did not receive the 2016 intervention allocations were excluded from the programme to clear their backlog of accumulated but unaccessed funds.
According to Baffa, based on the reports of the panel, most of the institutions submitted quality proposals that they are in dire need of and are in tandem with TETFund’s mandates. Regrettably however, the proposals were non-compliant with the Public Procurement Act of 2007, while some of the institutions displayed lack of knowledge of TETFund intervention guidelines, and wrong priorities.
He further identified common issues impeding access to the intervention funds by benefiting institutions to include undue delay of payment to contractors by some beneficiaries after receipt of first tranche of money from TETFund; refusal by some contractors to mobilize to site after receiving mobilization fees and; a general lack of information by the institutions on how to effectively draw down this intervention, while most of them do not have a Collection Development Policy (CDP) to guide their procurement of library holdings.
According to him, “While it was observed that some of the scholars in the institutions were oblivious of the existence of this intervention thereby leading to poor access, many of the institutions had not fully accessed this intervention because of challenges of staffing especially the newly established universities, while in most cases, proposals are submitted after the timeline.”
Besides, he posited that most of the benefiting institutions do not understand the utilization of this intervention and therefore, could not access it, while scholars in some of the institutions on the receipt of funds for their masters or doctoral programmes overseas simply misappropriated the funds without going for further studies or, in collaboration with their institutions changed their countries of study without the approval of TETFund.
He cited an example of a scholar who received funds to study in the United States of America (USA) where the tuition fee and personal allowances was N30 million but later changed the country of study to Uganda or Kenya where the tuition and living expenses is less than N10 million.
Though he refrained from naming the scholars and the institution that produced them, the TETFund boss disclosed that the affected institution has been instructed to, within an agreed period of time, recover the monies from these defrauding fellows.
But Baffa disclosed that some milestones have been recorded. He admitted, also that a lot more efforts needed to be made along the line, especially when viewed against the background that every kobo means a lot to the institutions of learning in the area of upgrading their infrastructure and academic manpower.
For instance, he noted that out of the N 1 trillion allocated to the institutions between 2011 and2015, about N175 billion still remained unaccessed. He said the figure though huge, is in actual fact not much as a lot of the funds have been accessed.
“We are saying that between 75 and 80 per cent has been accessed leaving only 20-25 percent in the years under review. But one institution not accessing is unacceptable at all, we want all the funds accessed by 100 per cent, that is why we ran the clinic.
“Like I have told them, we at the Fund do not want any kobo unaccessed; we want the money disbursed and used for the purposes intended which informed the introduction of the access clinic.“There are some institutions that still have more than N4 billion unaccessed with the Fund. But there are institutions with less than N20 million,” he said.
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