Failure by the Ministry of Finance and Development planning to approve proposed budgets for the University of Botswana (UB) is leading to the depletion of the university’s cumulative reserves. UB Deputy Vice Chancellor Finance and Administration Dawid Katzke told the parliamentary committee on Statutory bodies on Monday that UB used P196 million from its accumulated reserves to get it through the last financial year. Katzke said that although the university’s budget ceiling is about P1 billion, they were only afforded about P700 million by the ministry.
They were then told to use funds from the reserves to augment the shortage, a situation he says is not favourable as it exposes the university to risks. Besides that, Katzke said the trend has now created a problem for the university as the Ministry despite knowing fully that the funds that were afforded to the university were not a true reflection of the institution’s financial needs, would then use the previous budget it afforded the institution to project the next budget for the university. Katzke would later tell the committee that the university’s financial distress was further aggravated by debtors who delay payments.
According to what he told the committee government was ironically among this debtors. Government, according to Katzke, did not pay tuition fees for all government sponsored students enrolled at the university last year. The money was only paid this year in June and July. “Government simply told us there was no money,” he said when asked what reason was put forward by Ministry of Education officials.
Permanent Secretary in MOESD Richard Matlhare when asked why they have not paid UB since they have budget for the student tuition fees, said that he was shocked as was not even aware. “I am perplexed because there is no way as government allows our own institutions to suffer,” said Matlhare who was answering a question from committee chairman Samson Moyo Guma. Guma put it to Matlhare that MOESD has shown that they have spent their entire allocated budget but have not paid UB, “something is seriously wrong and your submissions are very wrong.”
Katzke said with the new faculty of medicine now added to the university’s expenditure the university will now need to have its budget adhered to by its financiers. Running the faculty of medicine only according to the Deputy Vice Chancellor requires millions from the university’s coffers. But it does not end there, the faculty of medicine also has the University hospital under its wing. The hospital which the committee was told is now complete will require about P1.4 billion a year to run and its opening has now been delayed by a few lose ends.
As it is according to UB officials, the hospital though built on UB land belongs to the Ministry of health and its running which include its management and employed staff like doctors will be under the ministry. This arrangement, the committee was told is ideal as the university would not have been able to stomach all the cost of running the hospital. The problem now arises when UB wants to insure equipment to be used in the hospital. “ Insurance companies are not willing to insure equipment housed in an uninsured building,” Katzke said. Apparently government as per its policy does not insure its buildings.
UB’s financial woes, according to the Deputy Vice-Chancellor Academic Affairs Professor Otlogetswe Totolo, was affecting even the academic development side of the institution. When asked whether UB valued research and was embarking on world standard research projects, Totolo said yes. But the Vice Chancellor could not say likewise on whether they were competing with top international professors. “The answer to that is a categorically No,” he said. According to Totolo, the funding scope for research has to be increased to allow for UB professors to do excel without any financial constraint.
As a measure of redress the university officials were assured that the committee will schedule for them to meet the Ministry of Finance officials to discuss and resolve their concerns about the budget and other financial concerns. Another challenge for UB is that their budget ceiling has been reduced from P632 million to P470 million in the current financial year forcing them to use capital project funds for operational costs.