UNIVERSITY of Zambia (UNZA) Vice-Chancellor Professor Luke Mumba has revealed that the institution ran from 1994 to 2014 without audited financial statements, but is working to ensure the University is up to-date by June, 2021.
Speaking when they appeared before the Parliamentary Committee on Parastatal Bodies, Thursday, Prof Mumba said that the institution was currently working on the 2018 report and working to ensure that they were up to-date by June, 2021.
“Why is UNZA lagging behind in audits? For the benefit of the members of the Committee might want to know that from 1994 to 2014, UNZA had a backlog of 20 years of not having annual audited accounts. This management took it upon itself to ensure that by 2018, we should be up to-date with the audits. Yesterday, [Wednesday], 2017/2018 was being presented, of course, we acknowledge we are late, but there are circumstances that we have explained. The time external auditors Grant Thornton were on the ground to do the audit for 2017 and 2018, we had another audit by the Auditor General. So, these people look at the same records, so it was difficult to do these things at the same time; Grant Thornton had to step out in order to allow the office of the Auditor General to finalise theirs, so I would like to assure members here that the 2017 council was supposed to have approved it yesterday and the Auditors could not make it because of the time change in the meeting, 2017 is ready, we are working on 2018, our desire is that by June, 2021, it’s late I acknowledge, but bearing in mind the backlog of work that we have had to do, by June, 2021, we would like to be current with the audits in the University of Zambia,” he said.
And in response to a question from the Committee Chairperson Peter Daka on the need to prioritise retirees that were occupying University houses so that they could vacate and leave room for staff that were still serving the University, Prof Mumba said that the retirees were being prioritised, but that UNZA remained limited by lack of resources.
“I would like to indicate here that actually the problem goes even further that we have people, who we retain on the payroll, because we have not paid them. So, those categories of people, including those occupying houses of the University, are, indeed, prioritised. The disbursements that we made reference to in the report coming from the Ministry (of Higher Education) have been targeted towards those categories of people and a number of them have been cleared, but it is the resources that are limiting. While we want to clear as many as we can, we can only manage as the resources permit, but, indeed, those are our priorities at the moment,” he explained.
In response to a question on whether the creation of new companies to run UNZA’s investments by Lusaka Central PF member of parliament Margaret Mwanakatwe, Prof Mumba said that the creation of UNZA Holdings was a result of lessons learnt to ensure that investments were run in a competitive and sustainable manner.
“One of the things we have done is to create the University of Zambia Holdings, this is a private company, which will manage all the business entities of the University away from the core business of the University. The lessons we have learnt, which have necessitated this action, is that we feel that the business ventures that we have are not competitive in the way they are operating now. They are operating under the mainframe, University of Zambia conditions of service and when we compare the salaries, for example, for our staff at the farm, Liempe Farm, vis-a-viz a similar entity in the private sector, you will find that our salaries may not be that competitive so that makes our operations unsustainable. So, by hiving all these business ventures into UNZA Holdings, it will run as a private entity and that way we feel like it will help us to generate the much-needed revenue for the University,” he said.
And on the query highlighted in the Auditor General’s report on the irregular invoicing on non-sponsored students to the Loans Board, Prof Mumba said that the funds were not lost by government as the screening process was ongoing at the time the invoice was issued.
“The University of Zambia admits students based on their performance and then the students go all over the place looking for people that can sponsor them and one of the main sponsors is the Higher Education Loans and Scholarship Board. So, they receive a list of possible students that can be admitted at UNZA, then they pick from that list the number that they can sponsor. So, they will say, ‘with us, we can sponsor this year 2,000 students, these are the students we have chosen to sponsor…’ So, the University of Zambia will invoice based on the 2,000 students. Now, not all those students end up screened, that’s why the screening is very important. The screening now is where the Higher Education Loans and Scholarships Board come to the University and check all the students to confirm. So, it is that process of screening that has been delaying, and after that screening, there is now reconciliation between UNZA records and the HELSCB. So, what we are saying is that, we need to improve on that process of screening so that it is done timeously to avoid what was observed. It may appear as an irregularity, but it’s an ongoing process every year, it happens like that,” said Prof Mumba.