One of the country’s foremost institution, the University of Botswana (UB) is facing serious financial ruin that could spell its ultimate demise.
Only the intervention of the government could prove to be the lifeline as a dire financial situation is tightening its stranglehold on the institution which came about through the efforts of Batswana who contributed resources during the country’s lean years of the 1970s.
UB started the year with a deficit of P71 million, the Parliamentary Statutory Bodies and State Enterprises Committee learnt on Wednesday.
Last year, its deficit stood at P231 million. The Vice Chancellor, Professor David Norris told the Statutory Bodies and State Enterprises Committee that this is attributed to a drop in enrolment that has been happening over the years.
“The university has been enrolling over 18,000 students, but the number has dropped to 12,451.
“This has a serious impact on revenue service. Recently we have been struggling to pay salaries. UB management wants the government to intervene on the matter and we are also trying to come up with programmes that could attract students from outside Botswana as well,” Norris said.
Tati East MP, Samson Guma Moyo enquired as to whether the UB felt that government has contributed negatively on the issue of enrolment, but Norris refuted.
He, however, insisted that government should come on board and assist the institution to solve this problem. In 2016, the Auditor General report showed that UB experienced a 23% drop in enrolment in the past three years, eroding its revenues and pushing it further into a situation where it totally relied on government support. The report, covering the financial year to March 31, 2016 indicated enrolment at the institution fell from 18,176 in 2014 to 14,040 in 2016, landing UB in deficits.
According to the report, during the year under review, the university recorded a deficit of P624.76 million, compared to P1.95 million in the previous
On other issues, the Statutory Bodies and State Enterprises Committee told UB management that they were not going to accept any financial statement before them since they were not signed by UB Council and management. The issue came after Gaborone Central MP Phenyo Butale asked Norris if auditors audited the financial statement or if it was a draft. “Our finances have been audited, but the problem we had was that the UB Council could not meet because their term of office had expired since March 31.
“The Minister of Tertiary Education, Research, Science and Technology did not nominate other members. Those who were there could not form a quorum and UB Council chairperson was forced at times to take a decision on behalf of the council,” Norris said. The vice chancellor told the committee that the UB Act gives the UB Council chairperson the powers to make a decision on behalf of the committee in case it does not form a quorum or is not there.
MP for Gabane-Mmankgodi Pius Mokgware wanted to know how UB was functioning without the UB Council and where they got their mandate. That could not convince the committee, which asked the deputy Attorney General, Nchunga Nchunga to read the Act to advise the committee if UB had been doing things illegally or not when they resubmitted their finances.
The UB was advised to ensure that UB Council and its management signed. Moyo said they would present their finances after they are tabled before Parliament.