Makerere University Vice Chancellor Prof. Venansius Baryamureeba
The Makerere University Vice Chancellor, Prof. Venansius Baryamureeba, is being investigated over allegations that he mismanaged a Dutch-funded scholarship scheme for PhD students worth Euros 5.7m (Shs17 billion).
But the VC in an interview on Wednesday denied any wrongdoing, saying both internal and external auditors evaluated the project expenses without raising accountability queries.
President Museveni is expected to appoint a substantive VC for Makerere University soon.
The Dutch Embassy in Kampala said it already raised the anomalies with its Foreign Affairs Ministry that in turn notified the implementing agency to commence inquiries.
“As the embassy of the Kingdom of Netherlands strongly values accountability and transparency, we have followed up on these allegations,” Mr Melle Leenstra, the Political and Public Affairs officer, wrote in reply to our email enquiries.
He added: “We understand that NUFFIC (The Netherlands Organisation for International Cooperation in Higher Education) is investigating the issue. We expect that the applicable Ugandan authorities will duly investigate this matter.”
Makerere’s former Faculty of Computing (CIT) hosted the four-year project to help academic staff from four Ugandan public universities “strengthen ICT training and research capacity”.
Prof. Baryamureeba coordinated the project that closed on May 30, 2011.
Suspect handling of the project came to light following revelations that a March 4, 2008 CIT Appointments and Promotions Committee meeting chaired by Prof. Baryamureeba as the faculty Dean, waived tuition for the 20 beneficiaries yet NUFFIC disbursed Euros160, 000 (Shs480m) for the same purpose.
The VC said they used the Dutch funds – an average of Euros2,000 per PhD student each year – to pay full tuition for students from other universities and functional fees for Makerere University staff on the scholarship.
The balance of the money was credited to the faculty account and used for paying supervisors and buying stationery, he said.
Prof. Baryamureeba said: “The reason we waived the tuition was because the scholarship funds were insufficient.”
University records show a number of the students are yet to complete their PhD programmes months after the scholarship programme wound up.
This newspaper has established that nine of the beneficiaries have applied to the Directorate of Graduate Studies for between $12, 000 -15, 000 (Shs28.7m-35.9m) of Carnegie Corporation grants.
One of the students, Ms Fridah Katushemererwe, a NUFFIC beneficiary, for instances states in her August 15, 2011 application that her PhD research project delayed due to “lack of funds for both tuition and research”, claiming she even took a dead academic year in 2007.
It was not clear how a student offered a scholarship and later rewarded with tuition waiver could have been in such financial distress to take a dead year or fail to conduct research.
After their applications for Carnegie grants were turned down, Dr Josephine Nabukenya, the Dean of the School of Computing & IT, on October 6, 2011, wrote on behalf of the PhD students to the deputy directorate of Graduate Studies, Dr George Nasinyama, pleading for financial assistance to them.
In the letter, she says NUFFIC funding catered for the beneficiaries’ tuition and functional fees, research books, data collection and analysis and facilitation for short visits to the Netherlands to work with their international supervisors.
“Other research activities especially theory and model testing and validation; thesis writing and printing remain to be done and thus need funding,” she wrote.
Ombudsman Raphael Baku confirmed on Monday that his office is investigating the alleged discrepancies. There are also queries about the spending of Euros72, 750 (Shs218m) project administration funds.
Makerere’s director for Graduate Studies and Research, Prof. Eli Katunguka, has written to the university council chairman, Eng. Wana Etyem, outlining what he considers irregularities such as non-registration of the PhD students with his directorate, missing project agreement document, non-payment of tuition for the scholarship beneficiaries and exclusion of the university administration from the project execution.
“This predisposes the project to fraud and mismanagement,” Prof. Katunguka’s January 13 letter reads in part.
He added: “The project should be investigated and fresh audits by international auditors conducted to reveal the scope of the mismanagement of NUFFIC funds.”
Eng. Etyem said on Wednesday that the concerns raised are of “administrative nature”.
“Sometimes people feel they are not being heard promptly and that is why they appeal to the chairman, he said by telephone.
“I received the letter and have instructed relevant organs of the university to advise me before I can respond”.
Prof. Katunguka said the VC was being dodgy over the accountability.
The grant was supposed to benefit 20 PhD students.
By Tabu Butagira, Daily Monitor