September 20, 2018
By Jariatu S. Bangura
Chairman of the Parliamentary Oversight Committee on Tertiary Education, Hon. Alimamy O. Kamara, has ordered the Acting Finance Director of the University of Sierra Leone to pay National Social Security and Insurance Trust and National Revenue Authority PAYE contributions on behalf of varsity staff, amounting to Le28 billion.
“This is an order that the Acting Finance Director pays the sum of Le28billion and submits the receipt to the committee before Tuesday, 26th September, 2018. Failing to do so will cause the committee to take necessary actions or will have to recommend that the Anti-Corruption Commission conducts a forensic investigation at the university,” said Hon. Kamara.
He said those anomalies were discovered during an oversight visit by the committee to colleges in the Western Area – Fourah Bay College, Institute of Public Administration and Management – and Njala University, adding that it was discovered that the finance departments have not been paying NRA and NASSIT contributions for staff.
Hon. Kamara said officials at the University of Sierra Leone told them the government owed them Le25billion, hence their inability to pay contributions for their staff, amounting to Le28billion.
“These monies were deducted but not transferred to the Consolidated Revenue Fund, which is a crime as per the laws of the country. We have investigated the issue and we were told that the former Vice Chancellor, Ekundayo Thompson, authorised them to do so,” averred Hon Kamara.
Acting Director of Finance at USL, Madam Waltina Mackay, said since 2016 to date, they have had difficulty accessing funds and that the Ministry of Finance hasn’t disbursed funds to the secretariat.
She disclosed that they have not been collecting fees, thus the constraints to pay staff contributions to NRA and NASSIT.
She disclosed that their wage bill was approximately Le3 billion per month and that money that had been allocated to them was far below the running cost.
“We have been struggling to meet the cost of emolument, NASSIT and PAYE contributions due to the little amount we have. Over the years, we have been receiving less than what we have to pay, which has caused us to accumulate huge sum for NASSIT and PAYE contributions. As management, there are certain decisions that we have to take because if we can’t pay lecturers they will go on strike and we don’t want such, so we have to strike a balance and pay salaries and withhold the PAYE and the NASSIT contributions instead,” she said.
Ms. Mackay noted that their liability for paying emolument to staff was in the sum of Le6 billion, adding that they have been working under very stringent budget.
She disclosed that they have already started paying some NASSIT contributions and plans were also underway to pay withholding taxes.
According to the Former Vice Chancellor, Prof. Ekundayo Thompson, they have been running the university on a shoe string budget because the university secretariat hasn’t been collecting fees directly.
He said that subventions from government could not pay their staff in full, yet they could not close the college.
On his part, Financial Secretary Sahr Jusu said the university shouldn’t wholly depend on the funds provided by the government.
“How can one withhold contributions for NASSIT, PAYE and not salaries or other rents? It is an offence for them to do such. How much was received as fees could not be explained,” he retorted.
He revealed that Le36 billion have been paid to universities for wages and salaries and that government owed the varsities Le12 billion.
Jusu stated that what was budgeted for the 2018 financial year would be disbursed to universities, but noted that the payroll of universities should be revisited as it contains names that shouldn’t be there.
He said when monies were given to pay staff the university authorities would rather pay contractors.
Meanwhile, Accountant-General Richard Williams said the sum of Le49.5 billion was remitted to the University of Sierra Leone for the 2017 budget year, with a remainder of Le12 billion outstanding for the third quarter, which he assured would be soon paid.