Makerere probe discovers 16,000 ghost students

Monday January 1 2018

Higher education. Makerere University students

Higher education. Makerere University students march to the main building. FILE PHOTO 

By Damali Mukhaye

Kampala-The visitation committee investigating Makerere University affairs has revealed about 16,000 names of suspected ghost students on the institution’s enrollment register who were unaccounted for during the headcount verification.

The probe committee also found at least another 600 names of suspected ghost staff on the university payroll.
President Museveni appointed the committee in November 2016 to study the cause of persistent strikes and financial woes at the country’s oldest university with an aim of finding remedy following closure of the university on November 1, 2016 after a lecturers’ strike.
In its report findings, the committee says it discovered glaring discrepancies between the number of students submitted for verification and those who were verified during the headcount.
According to the report, the university management presented to the committee student nominal rolls containing 46,128 names for verification categorised as “continuing, newly admitted and graduate students”.

However, only 29,889 students (65 per cent) were verified during the committee’s headcount exercise as of February, 2017.

This leaves 16,239 (35 per cent) students unverified, unaccounted for or deemed suspect.
“By the time of compilation of this report (April 2017), the university management had not provided reasons why the students in question had not appeared for the headcount. There is a risk that some of these students may not actually be genuine students of the university,” the report reads.

The report also notes that another 4,235 students showed up for the headcount verification exercise but were not on the university nominal roll. The committee observed that the university administration did not have an accurate nominal roll for its students.

Inconsistencies
The committee said the university was tasked to explain and account for the 16,239 students who were not verified during the headcount and also investigate why 4,235 students who had documentation such as admission letters and identity cards but their names did not appear on the nominal rolls.

In a related scenario, Makerere University management presented a payroll comprising 3,174 staff but upon headcount verification, the committee found only 2,523 employees as of February 2017, leaving 651 staff unaccounted for or whose existence could not be proved.

The report further observed that of the 651 unaccounted-for staff who did not show up for the verification, the university management said only 628 were known to them.
The management said some employees missed the headcount due to various reasons.

However, the university could not account for the balance of 12 staff whom they disowned and another 11 who remained unaccounted for, raising suspicion of ghost employees.
Further, the report indicates that during the staff verification exercise, 409 employees who turned up for verification were not on the staff registers presented by the university management.

The report also revealed that some names appeared duplicated as they had been recorded on staff registers of more than one college.

The committee also observed that from the above analysis, and from the observations on payroll management, it is evident that the university management does not have a clean comprehensive staff register and payroll.

When contacted to explain the unaccounted-for students and staff, the Makerere Vice Chancellor, Prof Barnabas Nawangwe, said some students are on external programmes and were not present at the time of headcount. He said they show up at the university only twice a semester.

“Those are always the problems of headcount. It is not always compulsory that everyone should turn up, so it is evident that students who were not on ground were not counted. Besides, students from our affiliated College of Makerere University Business School (Mubs) in Nakawa are also part of Makerere. So if the committee did not count them, then a mismatch was expected,” Prof Nawangwe explained by telephone on Sunday.

Prof Nawangwe was the university’s Deputy Vice Chancellor for Finance and Administration at the time of the committee’s investigations.

Explaining the students who had university identity cards and admission letters but their names were missing on the nominal roll, Prof Nawangwe said students who did not register or pay tuition fees are not considered students although they have the admission letters and IDs.

On the duplication of staff names and mismatch between the number of staff submitted and number verified by the committee, he said that question should be answered by the committee which carried out the headcount.

He said some lecturers were hired by the university but are rendering their services to more than one college.

The report was presented to President Museveni last Friday at his country home in Rwakitura, Kiruhura District by the deputy chairperson of the committee, Justice Ketrah Katunguka.
The committee chairperson, Dr Abel Rwendeire, died in October last year.

Other findings and recommendations

Management: The committee also observed inadequate management accountability following several weaknesses which reflect inadequacies in financial management, procurement, asset management and grants management resulting into financial loss to Makerere University.
Students’ grievances: The committee also noted that students were highly discontented regarding the fees policy and charges and examinations and results managements. There was general discontent resulting from, staff strikes, absenteeism of some staff, sexual harassment, and key welfare issues including security, physical infrastructure, sanitation and meals. The insensitivity of infrastructure towards the disabled was also noted.
Council composition: The committee also questioned the composition of Makerere University Council with more than 50 per cent non-independent members (staff and students) which creates conflict of interest and compromises objectivity. The committee recommended that the council of a public university should be composed of 15 members.
Of these, nine should be independent members (from outside the university with knowledge, competencies and experience in key areas of higher education governance).
It said other representatives on the committee like of the Convocation, the Vice Chancellor Academic Staff, Non-teaching staff, Graduate Students Undergraduate Students should be ex-officios.
Decongestation: The committee also recommended that to decongest Makerere University, management should transfer undergraduate programmes in the College of Business, Administration and Management (COBAMS ) to its constituent Makerere University Business School.
The committee said Education students (CEES ) be transferred to Kyambogo University and students at the College of Humanities and Social Sciences (CHUSS) be moved to Nsamizi Institute of Social Development. The remaining Colleges should then focus on graduate training and research. Additionally, virtual platforms should be fully utilised to deliver programmes to offsite/off-campus students.

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