Special audit team scrutinised accounts from 1998-’99 and 2011-’12 and diagnosed the malady
With the Annamalai University controversy coming to the fore again in the wake of the recent developments, the focus is increasingly turning on how to treat and resolve the issue of “excess staff,” which is critical to the revival of the institution.
The issue has been identified by the State government-constituted special audit team as the primary reason for the financial crisis that has engulfed the university.
The audit team’s final report, presented to the government in February, runs to 29 pages along with annexure for 125 pages, a copy of which is available with The Hindu. The audit team scrutinised accounts from 1998-1999 to 2011-2012.
It points out that the appointments had been made subsequently in all the streams – regular, distance education and self-financing courses – with the approval of the Syndicate, Senate and the Board of Selection. “However, the norms prescribed for appointment by the State government/UGC were not followed. Thus, there had been a spree of appointments without any control mechanism over the staff strength and future recurring expenditure,” the report concluded.
A host of other issues too has also been covered by the team. Among the issues are non-adherence of norms on promotions or adopting higher scales of pay and the way distance education has been administered.
On the count of mismanagement of funds, the report lists non-remission of about Rs. 178 crore to Provident Fund, Contributory Pension Fund (CPF) and Pension Fund; diversion of Rs. 268.6 crore from the General Fund, Examination Fund and Distance Education Fund to self-finance courses and obtaining loans of Rs. 33 crore by pledging fixed deposits of around Rs.63 crore lying with the CPF.
Even demand drafts submitted by students to the tune of about Rs.8.8 crore between 2006 and 2012 towards tuition fees were not realised till the end of October 2012.
Even though the actions of the government such as appointment of an Administrator and suspension of the Vice-Chancellor have been widely welcomed, the Joint Action Council of teaching and non-teaching staff of the university and the Communist Party of India (Marxist) are for safeguarding the interests of the staff.
The JAC, at its emergency general body meeting held in Chidambaram on Tuesday, called upon the government not to resort to retrenchment of over 12,500-strong staff members or austerity measures.
K. Balakrishnan, Communist Party of India (Marxist) MLA from Chidambaram and member of the University’s Senate, contests the finding of the audit team that the institution has excess staff, teaching and non-teaching. All these employees have been recruited after following a due procedure.
The increase in staff strength has been arrived at on the basis of norms, which, Mr Balakrishnan argues, do not reflect the reality of the university. The strength of students has also gone up over the years in many streams such as engineering and agriculture. “Considering this factor, I do not agree with the view that there exists excess staff.”
He believes that the existing infrastructure of the university is so strong that all the employees can be productively engaged. To cite an example, he says that the maintenance of the university’s 17 hostels and 33 messes has been outsourced. This task can be entrusted to the available employees.
So, what is required is that the affairs of the institution have to be carried on in a streamlined and professional manner, he says.
New law needed
M. Anandakrishnan, veteran educationist and Chairperson of the Indian Institute of Technology-Kanpur, says that the crisis, being faced by the university, has arisen due to the total erosion of academic standards and probity. He calls for a new law to govern the institution.
First private university
Describing the Annamalai University as the first private university in the country, Dr. Anandakrishnan acknowledges that it was founded by a great philanthropist with “noble intentions.”
But, since the university continues to be a publicly funded institution, the State government has the authority to go in for a fresh law, repealing the existing Annamalai University Act. “Unless this university is also treated at par with other publicly-funded universities, no qualitative improvement can be expected,” he adds.