Partnering ICPC for transparency and fiscal discipline in tertiary institution’s administration
OCTOBER 30, 2015 marked one year that I first stood before this distinguished academic community. This was during the occasion of my formal inauguration as Provost by the immediate past Governing Council of this great institution, Adeyemi College of Education, Ondo.
It is therefore with total reverence to the awesome powers of God Almighty and with utmost humility that I am standing before you today to give an account of my stewardship in the last one year. It is hoped that this interaction would enable Management fine tune new policy objectives and deliverables for the year ahead. It will also lay the foundation for Management’s actions during the last one year. Thus, in this address, I will be highlighting major challenges and achievements experienced since my assumption of office.
This address is therefore a veritable way of informing and involving all stakeholders in the agenda of the coming year.
It is very rhapsodic to be destined as it were to be the very first alumnus Provost of the College, and also on its 50th anniversary. Thus, by sheer providence, I constitute the bridge linking the past, present and the future of this institution, a living symbol of the collective aspiration of the over 50,000 alumni spread across the globe, the current student population of about 15,000 and the many more yet-to-be-admitted individuals waiting to join us.
While this is an achievement in itself, it is also a substantial score for every staff of this institution because my modest academic successes and laurels can neither be totally nor partially alienated from the excellent education that I received right here on this campus; a training that gave me hope, purpose and has kept me going over the years. Understandably, this institution has the right to look upon me proudly as a craftsman would regard his finished fine piece of art. My emergence as Provost is the collective achievement of all past, present and future staff of Adeyemi College of Education.
I wish to salute the founding fathers of the College and to acknowledge the great works of all past Principals/Provosts and their management teams. I particularly wish to acknowledge and place on record the outstanding contributions of the immediate past Provost, Professor Adeyemi Idowu to the massive infrastructural and intellectual uplift of this institution during the 8 years that he served. He was also instrumental to the massive injection of funds into the College from the Federal Government during his tenure.
During my inauguration address to the College community last year, I made it very clear that I was coming into office with a mind-set that is averse to mere sitting on our laurels and basking in the euphoria of past glories. I did identify the following as our major challenges; the absence of a full university status, inadequate funding; inadequate deployment of IT in governance and research; weak research base; inadequate national and international linkages; students and staff welfare issues; abandoned projects and infrastructural deficits; erratic power and water supply and irregular academic calendar, etc.
I believe in the saying that ideas rule the world. If there is anything an administrator or a leader needs, it is the flow of ideas and in this past year, I have put that to great use for the benefit of the College. Permit me to say that it has been a very rough year inundated with lots of challenges and upheavals on all sides. I cherish the core values of sincerity, modesty, humility and selflessness because positions of authority are mere opportunities to serve.
When I assumed office, our indebtedness was almost hitting the roof and funding from government was insufficient to even pay staff salary. Serious augmentation has to be made from other sources. Indeed, we could not meet our financial obligations to contractors, outsourced services especially the college private security outfit and our cleaning contractors with a combined monthly payment of almost ten million were the worst hit. The situation is still precarious and the last time this category of workers was paid was in April 2015
One of the first major accomplishments of the current administration was that it succeeded in engaging a renowned firm of external auditors, Omogoroye Okin and Company to carry out an up-to-date audit of the College finances. It should be noted that this critical and statutory exercise was last carried out in 2011.
The reports of the external auditors were quite detailed, comprehensive and revealing. From the reports, I was pained to learn that the College, after 50 years of its existence had its students’ data managed solely by a third party on an outsourced basis without any proprietorship right to the College.
E-portal web services on student records, conduct of Post UTME, internal examinations for large education courses and the fees payment portal of the College were all outsourced and remotely managed. Apart from the issue of confidentiality and the fact that the College has no immediate control over such data, the cost of this service to the College for the years ended 31 December 2012, 2013 and 2014 according to our External Auditors amounted to about N46m, N60m and N63m respectively. Similarly, up till the end of last session, students of the College were still using Optical Mark Reader (OMR) answer sheets for examinations involving large classes.
The service provider that processes the results of these examinations charges about N500 per answer script. The cost of processing these results runs into millions of naira when multiplied by the number of scripts every session. The bill recently submitted for the 2014/2015 Harmattan semester OMR examination is over N7 million.
Furthermore, it is interesting to note that up to the 2014/2015 Academic Session, students of the College paid their fees via the purchase of scratch cards at designated banks. These scratch cards were supplied by an external body. I found this method not only out-dated but also exploitative, and consequently discouraged the use of scratch cards for payments. For instance the lop-sided sharing formula between the College and the service providers is summarized in the table below:
From this table, it is obvious that there was deficit in all the expenditure heads highlighted except Pension & Gratuity.
In spite of the increase of about 20per cent in the internally generated revenue from N458m to N568m between 2013 and 2014, there was still a huge deficit of about N242m. The implication of this whooping indebtedness is that the College has not been able to meet its obligation to contractors and service providers as and when due. Additional funds that should have been expended on students and staff welfare also nose-dived.
Given this unpalatable situation a sizeable portion of the grants and IGR for the 2014/2015 was spent in settling outstanding liabilities. Hence, the College has been going through serious liquidity stress. The strategy we have adopted is to bring under serious control our overheads in order to be able to carry out routine transactions and meet necessary financial obligations as and when they fall due. For new fiscal year we intend to put in place a simple budgetary control system in line with new Treasury Single Account policy of the Federal Government.
Recruitment of staff
Shortly before my assumption of duty, additional members of staff numbering close to a hundred were recruited to boost the population of the College workforce. Admittedly, this is a positive development but incidentally, there was no prior budgetary provision or approval by the budget office before the engagement of these fresh hands. Consequently, we have been borrowing to augment our monthly personnel grant in order to pay staff salaries and other emoluments. We have also had to look inwards in order to pay promotion arrears and annual increments. This has made it extremely difficult to engage more hands in the last one year.
Over-bloated student population
Apart from the above, we were also confronted with the challenge of managing an over-bloated students’ population, the 2013/2014 and 2014/2015 academic sessions were merged and for the very first time over 7,000 students were admitted in one fell swoop. The attendant effects on our inadequate physical and intellectual resources are better imagined.
Closely related to the twin problem above is the fact that several contracts were awarded between 2013 and 2014. Some of these projects had been completed while some are on-going. The implication is that we have been trying to pay the College contractors from our available meagre resources. This explains why we have been reluctant to award fresh contracts. Incurring expenditure without cash backing is classified in the 2000 ICPC Act and by the Anti-Corruption Academy of Nigeria as public sector corruption. This is one of the major reasons why Management has been trying to be careful not to violate this extant regulation.
Nevertheless, I am happy to announce that construction works that will eventually culminate in the asphalt-laying of the road behind the newly completed Sports Pavilion up to the School of Vocational and Technical Education have commenced in earnest courtesy of the recent release of the second tranche of our capital grant for 2015. The main road linking our Demonstration Primary and Secondary schools is also under construction.
As mentioned earlier, we have tried to complete all inherited projects including the multimillion naira Sport Pavilion which will be commissioned soon. Given the successful completion of this project, the door is now open for accessing the over half a billion naira 2013 and 2014 Merged TETFUND Normal intervention projects fund. Some of the projects already pencilled down include the construction of an ultramodern medical centre, additional lecture theatres, furnishing of existing offices, procurement of laboratory equipment, beautification and landscaping of the campus environment, etc. We are also approaching TETFUND for a Special Intervention grant to put in place a befitting iconic new Library Complex as well as an entrepreneurial and vocational training centre for our students.
We are also embarking on the construction of 10 modern toilet facilities across campus to take care of the teeming population of our students during school hours. A special task force in charge of road maintenance under the chairmanship of the Director of Physical Planning, Works and Services has been set up for the renovation of all College roads and the construction of drainages using direct labour. In this era of dwindling revenue we need to develop our own local capacity for the regular maintenance of our roads.
Accreditation of programmes
I assumed duty at a time when our programmes both at the NCE and Degree levels were due for re-accreditation. Indeed, five of the newly introduced degree programmes were awaiting resource verification by the National Universities Commission (NUC). Resource verification and accreditation of programmes entail heavy investment in both human and material resources and we have since set the machinery in motion for the re-accreditation of all our programmes.
As a matter of fact, a team from the NUC were with us last week. Members of the team visited the Departments where the five new programmes are housed and interacted with members of staff. I will like to use this medium to congratulate the Deans and HODs of the five departments as well as the entire College community for a job well done. The official briefing after the exercise indicated that we did excellently well in virtually all the parameters. Of course, this visit is a necessary precursor to the planned re-accreditation of all our degree programmes by the NUC early next year. I cannot but publicly appreciate the Chairman and all members of the College Accreditation Committee who have been working tirelessly to ensure that all our programmes enjoy full accreditation status.
The 2015/2016 admission exercise
The admission exercise for this academic session is almost over and I am aware of the enormous pressures on our members from parents seeking admission for their wards. Management has done everything possible to make sure that the National Universities Commission and JAMB increase the quota for our degree programmes. We were initially given 671, this has now been raised to 1,000. As a stickler for regulations, I will not be a party to any attempt to go beyond our approved quota without official authorisation no matter the pressure on me. However, let me reassure this gathering that admission requests from members of staff for their biological children would be accorded high priority and considered.
A major innovation, as far as this year’s admission exercise is concerned is that Deans and HODs now have a say in the selection and shortlisting of candidates that would be admitted into their respective departments. Now that supplementary admission is about to commence, admission slots will be given to every School, Department and Units in the College. Principal Officers, Deans, Directors, Heads of Departments and Units are enjoined to be fair in the redistribution of the admissions slots that would be allocated to their respective units.
ACE IT revolution
From the beginning, Management has observed and bemoaned the almost comatose state of our IT infrastructure. Considering the fact that my association with leading universities abroad has given me a full grasp of how we can solve most of our administrative, academic and developmental problems through the deployment of digital technology, I considered an IT revolution as the framework upon which other achievements would be built. This prompted Management to immediately embark on a total overhaul of our IT infrastructure. The solution we opted for was all-encompassing, cutting across the following:
A Scalable Network Infrastructure with a state-of-the-art optic fibre and wireless IP network across campus
A Data Centre housing all the network devices and application servers within the college, and a befitting new interactive website for the College.
An IP Surveillance and CCTV System to provide adequate security on campus.
A Biometric Access Control System using fingerprint/Iris access identification systems.
A STABOARD – Virtual Learning Environment that gives students continuous accessibility through their computers or mobile devices.
An Electronic Revenue Collection and Accounting System which makes collection of revenue from different sources through the online portal very easy.
A Student/Staff Record Management System that will provide data collection and record management services for the entire campus.
An Integrated Hospital/Clinic Management Solution that will provide vital digital information storage and retrieval covering the gamut of the hospital system
A Project and Price Monitoring System which provides prompt and greater access to price and project information with its robust price database.
To achieve this, the Governing Council awarded a N130million contract to Staunton and Lycett which submitted a very realistic proposal and one which captured the scope of our vision of bridging our IT gap. One other interesting thing is that the contract was awarded on a BOT (Build, Operate and Transfer) basis since the College was not buoyant enough to finance such a multi- million naira project. Since its debut, we have been gradually moving to become an e-College with our avowed commitment to the acquisition and dissemination of IT-driven skills and the institution of a paperless administration.
Our College Management Committee and the College Academic Board meetings are now paperless. This on-going meeting with the College community and other stakeholders is also paperless. This address is live on our website and could be accessed by anybody and from anywhere throughout the world. Copies were also sent to staff and students email addresses this morning. Imagine what we would have spent on papers, toners and maintenance of photocopiers if this meeting were to follow our usual traditional method that most of us are still unwilling to move away from.
More significantly is the fact that we are demonstrating our avowed commitment to the principles of a Green campus by focussing on environmental sustainability and the protection of our climate for the present generation as well as generations yet unborn. The IT project which is now at a very advanced stage of completion has been central to the College’s achievements and great feats in the past one year. A few examples will suffice;
Conduct of post-UTME
The College successfully conducted its post UTME CBT examination internally without recourse to any third party or external body thereby saving millions of naira that it would have expended on such an exercise as was the case in the past. At the last count, for the two post UTME examinations the College made a whooping sum of N56 million naira. We also deployed our technology to assist the newly established University of Medical Sciences in the conduct of its own post UTME CBT examination. We only asked the university to provide modest honoraria for our IT personnel and to pay for power supply as a demonstration of our support to the rapid growth of the institution.
Prof Friday Okonofua, the Vice Chancellor of the Ondo State University of Medical Sciences in his letter of appreciation to Management has this to say: ‘‘The staff of the University of Medical Sciences were truly overwhelmed with the high level support and solidarity shown by all staff and students of your institution. It is now on record that this is the first of such support that our University is getting from any institution since its establishment. No doubt, this has opened a vista of cooperation that will open a firm bond of friendship between the two institutions for all time’’
Establishment of a laptop, thin client and tablet assembly plant
During the inauguration of the newly elected Students Union Government Executives, I announced that the success of the e-voting electoral system has been attracting the attention of critical development partners from the IT world. Interestingly, Management has received and has given an approval-in-principle for a partnership proposal for the construction of a laptop, thin client and tablet assembly plant right here on our campus.
The project is to be jointly financed by Quinion Ltd, a leading computer manufacturing firm, Watergate Limited, a global institutional investor and Staunton and Lycett, our IT infrastructure provider. It is the intention of the three participants to invest the sum of N600 million in the first two years of operation. The take-off of the plant would boost the IT drive of the College, create employment opportunities, boost our IGR and place our College on the world map of global IT driven institutions.
E-Voting: One of the fallouts of our robust IT infrastructure that left mouths agape across the nation’s educational landscape is the introduction of electronic voting system during the last Students’ Union Election.
The novel idea engendered the most peaceful SUG election in the College’s recent history. Only few years ago, the College had witnessed a union election that required the presence and intervention of the Commissioner of Police and other security agencies before a winner could be declared. Other features of the initiative were the posting of candidates’ manifestos on the College website and on YouTube where students and anyone with access to the internet across the globe could watch and access the different contestants before the election as well as the generation of usernames and passwords for all our students which they used to log in to the e voting portal to vote for contestants of their choice. The results which came barely an hour after voting ended were unanimously accepted by all parties.
The Registrar of JAMB, Prof. Dibu Ojerinde, publicly acknowledged this feat during his visit to our campus last September and recommended its widespread adoption. Interestingly, neighbouring universities and professional bodies have started requesting for our assistance in the deployment of such electronic voting template in their respective institutions and indeed, the Guardian Newspaper in one of its articles published on Monday July 20, 2015 recommended that the ACE e-voting framework should be adopted as a national template. For the records, it is interesting to note that the election took place simultaneously with the writing of the rain semester examination by students. See http://www.ngrguardiannews.com/2015/07/when-students-election-becomes-national-template/
Deployment of 1200 corps members: Management has been receiving accolades on the successful mobilisation of the over 1200 prospective Batch B Corps members of the College who had lost hope of being mobilised for the National Youth Service Corps, thereby preventing a sponsored planned demonstration that could have turned violent leaving the fate of the affected students hanging in the balance. But what actually did the magic was our robust IT infrastructure which ensured that our MIS unit and the Student Affairs office were able to digitally connect to the NYSC server in Abuja for the exchange of necessary software and the uploading of the data of the affected students without recourse to any third party institution.
• Ogen, a professor of History, is the Provost, Adeyemi College of Education, Ondo