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EDUCATION

TETFund And The Challenge Of Upholding Accountability

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There is no gainsaying that the Nigerian education sector has suffered a huge setback from the malaise of corruption that has plagued it for a very long time now. The rot in the education sector is attributable to the way and manner funds allocated to the sector have over the years, been misappropriated and mismanaged. All units of the Nigerian education sector have been badly hit by the corruption pandemic, but the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund) appears to have been worst hit because it is involved with the direct disbursement of huge sums of money to tertiary institutions for different purposes. TETFund is saddled with the responsibility of doling out funds to tertiary institutions for developing educational infrastructure and other facilities, and for stimulating, supporting and enhancing improvement activities in educational foundation areas like Teacher Education, Teaching Practice and Library Development. The role of TETFund as a major repository of funds for tertiary institutions’ use, sets it up as one organisation that is very prone to all manner of corrupt inclinations, being the reason for which the current Executive Secretary, Dr. Abdullahi Baffa has harped on the need to reintroduce and entrench transparency and accountability in the Fund. The accountability is quite important especially in the aspect of the Academic Staff Training and Development (AST & D) scheme. The scheme is one primary concern of the Fund that is geared towards building the capacity of scholars working in the respective universities, polytechnics and colleges of education across the country, to enable them measure up as teachers and lecturers. The AST & D scheme is an avenue through which TETFund interfaces directly with the staff of the tertiary institutions in terms of churning out funds for their academic pursuits. TETFund, through this scheme, provides scholars working in the tertiary institutions with grants to enable them pursue further studies in their chosen careers, so as to enhance their capacity as academic staff.

The beneficiary scholars are required to travel abroad or enroll in other local institutions for the acquisition of higher degrees such as the Masters Degrees and the Ph.D. The grants are divided into tuition fees and living costs. The tuition fees are paid annually for the beneficiary scholars by the institutions they work for, while their living costs are also paid them annually by the same institutions. Beneficiary scholars are encouraged to enroll in globally accredited institutions such as the ones in Europe and in the United States, for their advanced studies, so that the can be fully equipped and well-trained to deliver on expectations. Now, in the course of overhauling the AST & D scheme, shocking discoveries were made of how beneficiary scholars who were furnished with grants for advanced studies diverted the funds for other purposes. While many of the beneficiary scholars enrolled for the advanced courses, others who didn’t deem it fit to further their academic pursuit used up the grants for other purposes. In a recent development, a clampdown on scholars who misused their grants resulted in the recovery of over N7.5million from 11 lecturersof the Kaduna State Polytechnic, Kadpoly. The Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) had acted swiftly on a tip-off, and rounded up on the defaulting lecturers. The monies recovered from the lecturers were said to be part of funds released to the polytechnic for staff capacity development between 2010 and 2017.
Some of the lecturers collected as much as N1.39 million while others collected between N149, 000 and N1, 337,000 under the Academic Staff Training and Development Project.
The Acting Chairman of the Commission, Dr. Musa Usman Abubakar who handed over the recovered funds to the Bursar of the institution, Mr. Garba Nabayi, said that ICPC would ensure tertiary institutions in the country stop the misuse of TETFUND and other grants.

Dr. Abubakar stated that the investigation of the utilization of TETFUND grants was being carried out in 27 other tertiary institutions in the North-West geopolitical zone of the country to make sure that all grants were properly used, adding that those found wanting of misuse of the grant would be prosecuted. Speaking on the high-level fraud involving some academics, Baffa in an interview had stated that many lecturers had abused the intervention funds of the agency on pretext that they were pursuing further academic qualifications or attending conferences.
According to him, the anomalies hounding the AST & D scheme were also found to have been orchestrated by the beneficiary institutions through their decision to pay all the grants to the beneficiary scholars, instead of paying them only their living costs and making payment on their behalf for their tuition.  Baffa explained that the Fund’s directive was that the beneficiary scholars should not be allowed access to their tuition fees, except their living costs; but the directive was not adhered to as beneficiary institutions went head on to disburse the entire grants to the scholars. “We realized that in quite some beneficiary institutions, the guidelines for the scholarships award were being implemented in the breach. Beyond violating the guidelines, many of the beneficiary scholars who were given money to go and pursue their studies abroad refused to go and have spent the money on something else. We further realized that in a few institutions they were not giving the scholars the total money that was approved for them. They deduct certain percentage using different sort of names like administrative charges, and all sorts of illegal deductions.

“There are also scholars that were given the approval to go to Europe or to go the USA, for example, but they end up going to some African countries. Some scholars were given the authorization to do Ph.D., but they go and register for a Masters degree. But the worst of them were scholars who will collect the money and refuse to go. Now, all these were fueled by apparent disobedience to the directives of the Fund as it relates to the beneficiary institutions. The guidelines require all beneficiary institutions to pay the scholars their living costs on an annual basis and to pay their tuition to the training institutions also on annual basis. “However, institutions will take the entire money and pay to the scholar, 100%. Let us say you are going to study in the United Kingdom (UK) for a Ph.D. and you are given a sum of N30 million to cover the cost of tutition and maintenance for the duration of your studies, let say for three years. The institution is supposed to pay you only your living cost for the first one year, and will not make any advance payment to you until you submit a progress report. This means that they will make an advance to you of the living costs for the second year after being satisfied that you are making progress with the programme. The same thing happpens for the subsequent years, up untill the end of the programme. Also, they are supposed to pay the tuition fees for the first year, and when you submit progress report they pay
the fees for the second year and subsequent years, etc. But what obtained in the past was that these institutions will take the entire money and pay into the account of the scholar.
“Instead of complying with our guidelines, they do their own thing.

They pay the money to the scholars directly and the scholars will collect the money and refuse to go. Imagine a situation in which someone has never seen a N2 million or even a N1 million at once in his account, and in one fell swoop you deposit N30million in his account. Then he will start thinking what would he do? To take all money abroad all because of Ph.D.? Then people will refuse to go,” he had said. Baffa explained that to checkmate the misappropriation of fund, TETFUND has directed that as part of the prerequisites for accessing grants, beneficiary scholars must open domiciliary accounts into which the grants would be paid. He added that beneficiary institutions found to have misused their funds would be made to account for the monies earlier allocated to them before they were given any more funds. In this wise, institutions would be compelled to clampdown on their scholars who have misused and diverted their grants.
TETFund, in its earnest effort to improve the lot of tertiary institutions in the country, has beamed its searchlight on the entire process of pursuing advance courses abroad by the beneficiary scholars. TETFund discovered in good time that many beneficiary scholars do not enroll into high standard foreign or local institutions for their advanced courses, and has therefore, stipulated the countries where the beneficiary scholars can go to for their advanced courses, and the institutions in the stipulated countries where they can enroll. This strict measure was put in place following the discovery that most of the beneficiary scholars who claimed to be pursuing advanced studies in Europe and in the United States ended upstudying in Africa and other continents.
The transparency and accountability agenda of TETFund under Dr. Baffa, has no doubt, advanced through a steady course. A number of policieswere put in place by the Fund to ensure that the modus operandi complies with enabling legislation that defines the mandate of the Fund which includes supporting the provision of essential infrastructure for teaching and learning; supporting the provision of instructional materials and equipment; supporting research and publications; and academic staff training and development.

The Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund) was established in 2011 by the TETFund Act of 2011 which repealed the Education Tax Fund Act Cap. E4 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004 and the Education Tax Fund Act No.17, 2003. The Fund was charged with the responsibility of imposing, managing and disbursing the education tax to public tertiaryinstitutions in Nigeria.
TETFund benefits from a 2 per cent tax rate imposed on the assessable profit of all companies registered in Nigeria. The Federal Inland Revenue Service remits this tax to the TETFund’s account, from which it is disbursed to the beneficiary institutions. The Fund has been vested with the power to manage its own affairs and spend independently according to the Act establishing it. This financial autonomy granted the Fund has been responsible for the perennial financial corruption that has held sway in the Fund. The recent overhauling of the Fund by the present administration has seen to ridding the Fund of all unscrupulous elements, and has sparked a new order that is decent, accountable and transparent.



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