KP govt starts academic, financial audit of varsities

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The Higher Education Department (HED), Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, has finally started academic and financial audit of the public sector universities in the province despite their strong resistance, according to sources.

“Besides huge funding by the Higher Education Commission, the provincial government has also given around Rs20 billion to the government universities since 2007,” a senior official in HED told Dawn. It is for the first time that the provincial government would conduct the academic and financial audit of the universities, the official said.

He said that through this audit, to be carried out by a reputed audit firm, the HED wanted to know whether the given amount was properly utilised or not, and if utilised then the intended purpose was achieved or not. So far the audit firm – Deloitte Pakistan – has visited three universities, including the University of Peshawar, Bacha Khan University Charsadda, and Khushal Khan Khattak University Karak.

Initially, the audit would be conducted at eight universities, including Abdul Wali Khan University Mardan, University of Swabi, Bacha Khan University Charsadda, University of Swat, University of Peshawar, Khushal Khan Khattak University Karak, Hazara University Mansehra and Haripur University.

Some of the VCs still opposing the initiative, says a senior official
The sources said that the audit would have started months ago but the universities were resisting it on the ground that there was no provision in the law to conduct audit by HED. They said that the vice chancellors were not happy with the launching of the audit because it would expose their performance.

Because of this reason, the provincial government has also empowered HED to carry out audit in the universities besides other reforms introduced in the universities through amendments in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Universities Act, 2012.

The amended law states that the provincial government shall have the power to carry out financial and performance audit of all activities carried out by the universities out of the funds provided by the national and provincial exchequer grants and loans whether local or foreign, in such a manner, as deemed appropriate.

The objectives of the audit are to provide reasonable assurance that budgetary support for universities is used for the purposes intended by the grant. The audit is aimed at evaluating internal controls to confirm and assess the proper operation and persistent application of the system and procedure and to identify weaknesses and assess the adverse impact on the systems, according to official documents available with Dawn.

The audit firm would also make recommendations to strengthen internal controls and re-design the systems where necessary eventually to improve the credibility of the system.

As per agreement with HED, the audit firm would be required to evaluate construction work and performance in each of the key performance areas, including research and consultancy, international academic linkage, infrastructure and facilities, human resource development, finance, networking, linkage with national and international donors and marketing and promotions.

Some of the vice chancellors of the government universities are still opposing the new initiative and not cooperating with HED, a senior official said. “The HED has conveyed to such VCs to cooperate with it in the audit otherwise it would be deemed violation of the law and a reference could be filed against them,” he said.

The official said that Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf chairman Imran Khan had asked the HED time and again to accelerate the process of audit. He said that the provincial government had increased financial grants to the public sector universities following devolution of the education from the federal government.

Published in Dawn