Contrary to UNILAG Visitation Panel Report, Education Ministry Says VC Not Indicted Without Providing Evidence

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Despite findings of the report by the Presidential Visitation Panel set up by Visitor to the University of Lagos (UNILAG), President Muhammed Buhari, which indicted the Vice Chancellor (VC), Prof. Oluwatoyin Ogundipe, the Federal Ministry of Education, yesterday, denied that he was indicted by the visitation panel without providing evidence to back up its claim.

THISDAY is in possession of a copy of the panel’s report. Failure of the Ministry to release the report is fueling speculations of a cover up.

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The ministry has therefore described the report that a former Chairman, Governing Council of UNILAG, Dr. Wale Babalakin, was exonerated of wrong doings as false, mischievous and unfounded.
According to the panel’s report obtained by THISDAY, pages 67, 82, 165 and 166 had listed the alleged infractions by Ogundipe.

For instance, on page 82, the panel found that, “The university also uses expenditure approval limits for the Principal Officers, the Council and the Tender Board. There are cases where the principal officers exceed approval limits by approving related and similar expenses that ordinarily should be a single piece of procurement.

“This could be interpreted as splitting of contracts or services for it to be within the limit of an officer and avoid rules governing big tender, breach of the Procurement and Fiscal Responsibilities Acts.”

Similarly, on page 166, the panel found out that, “The allegations of payments without due process and necessary approvals are contrary to the provisions of the University Act and the Public Procurement Act.”

Furthermore, page 67 of the report states that, “The explanations given were mere justifications to the breached contract tender processes that resulted in contract splitting, not out of the ignorance of the requirements of the rules and regulations of the rules and regulations that have been subsequently enacted.”

But in spite of the allegations contained in the report, the ministry in a memo titled, “Re-Presidential Visitation Indicts Unilag VC, Mgt,” through its Director of Information and Public Affairs, Mr. Ben Bem Goong, stated that the federal government was in the process of setting up a White Paper Committees to address all the findings and recommendations of the panels, including that of UNILAG in a holistic manner.

It maintained that the insinuation among other things that the Panel to the institution indicted the VC and the management of the university was completely untrue, saying it stood by the report which was submitted by the Panel, which was chaired by General, Martin Luther Agwai (Rtd).

It urged stakeholders and the general public to ignore in totality, “the false, malicious and self-serving publications as well as their orchestration on social and electronic media and rather wait the former release of the government’s White Paper on the Panel’s reports.

“The stories also posited that the report exonerated the former Chairman of Council, Dr. Olawale Babalakin. The Ministry wishes to state in very categorical terms that these claims are false, unfounded, and to say the least, mischievous, as they have no bearing with the report submitted by the panel.
“It will be recalled that the 7-Man Presidential Visitation Panel to the University of Lagos submitted its report along with others to the Hon. Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu,on August, 31st, 2021 and not September, 7th 2021, as claimed in the publications.

 

“Government is in the process of setting up White Paper Committees to address all the findings and recommendations of the Panels, including that of Unilag in a holistic manner.
“Government had earlier issued a White Paper on the report of the 2020 Special Presidential Visitation Panel to the University of Lagos, which culminated in the dissolution of the former Governing Council and the reinstatement of the Vice Chancellor.

“Stakeholders and the general public are therefore advised to ignore in totality, these false, malicious and self-serving publications as well as their orchestration on Social and Electronic Media while we await the former release of the Government White Paper on the Panel’s reports” it said.

Constituted on March 29, 2021, the seven-member Presidential Visitation Panel was asked to look into the affairs of the institution between 2016 and 2020, which incidentally fell within the period that the Babalakin-led Governing Council removed Ogundipe as VC, over alleged financial malpractices.

On page 59 f and g of the report, the panel established that “virements of total sum of N1,858, 458,137 were consistently made from the recurrent votes to finance capital projects during the period under review. This is a major breach in budgetary control and has been consistent year to year. The practice is totally out of place in budgetary system of financing operations; it results in killing activities that could have qualitative benefits in favour of capital projects that were not initially budgeted and consequently culminating in the sinking of scarce resources over long period of time with low financial returns.

There are budget assumptions but these were almost the same each year. It is therefore not realistic as they are not in trend with current economic realities. Relying on unrealistic financial and programme estimates to run an entity could be disastrous”

The visitation panel stated: “The university operates a structured budget processing system. The budget process seems complete except that a bulk allocation of funds was made to each department, and they are each at liberty to allocate amount available as they deem fit. This is totally inconsistent with the structured process and needs to be revisited.
“The format of the periodic budget performance report presented to the Governing Council has major deficiencies. It lacks the critical aspect of good management information, performance review criteria and presentation. There is no section for the statement of financial positions that could have disclosed the fixed asset and all financial assets and liabilities of the university.

“It is half-baked reporting template used over the years for the quarterly financial reporting, however, it might not have been intentionally generated with the view towards hiding useful financial information from the Governing Council and the management of the university.

“We also noticed some inconsistency between the figures of the approved budget and that of the budget performance report. It points to the fact that subordinates are not being supervised as required. With a staff strength of 120, such errors should not be continuous and mistakes are not expected from the Bursary Department.
“The budget performance reports concentrated on the monetary aspect of operations and also failed to determine the variance between the budget and the actual performance of each critical areas of the university, which include direct teaching, research and human resource development.”

According to the panel findings, even the monthly donation of N500,000 to the Law Faculty by Babalakin for the purchase of law reports was diverted by the university management or the Faculty of Law by paying the sum into an unofficial account. This enabled the indicted officers to spend the money in a manner not authorised by the donor.

  • Credit: THISDAY
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