Makerere risks losing Shs 2.6bn in unpaid tuition

Makerere risks losing Shs 2.6bn in unpaid tuition
Makerere University-Ivory Tower building

Makerere University may again lose Shs 2.6 billion in uncollected tuition from students who are soon leaving the university, this publication has learnt.

A report by the university revenue collections unit – MURSU indicates that Makerere has up to December this year to retrieve money from student finalists who during their time of study were under billed.

In 2010 when the University Council created the revenue unit, its first assignment was to assess whether the institution was receiving all its money as reflected in the fees structure. Their report at that time indicated that Shs 2.6 billion was due from students but unbilled in the university system.

Despite several reminders and meetings by the university management on the issue, it has not been addressed. According to the report, the major cause of the under billing of students has been the university’s poor information systems and limited IT personnel.

“Recently, the exercise was revisited and again indicated that Shs 2.6 billion was unbilled on students. Unfortunately the university has up to December 2017, before the current finalists move away with the money,” says report.

In February, several complaints of alteration of marks forced the university to withdraw at least 50 names from the 67th graduation ceremony. This was after it was discovered that their marks had been doctored.

The university suspended at least two IT specialists attached to the academic registrar’s office, Christopher Ntwatwa and Mike Barongo. Police interrogated several others including Denis Mbabazi, Joyce Musoke, Janet Mbabazi and Ruth Iteu.

This resulted into the closure of the university online marks system, a system used to enter and store students examination scores. Issuance of academic transcripts was also suspended for at least two months.

The revenue report however recently recommended that if the university was to recover the money, “the IT officials should be recalled to assist the Directorate of ICT Support (DICTS) so that this matter is resolved before finalists leave the university with this money.”

Over the past years, Makerere has had only one programmer in the academic registrar’s department who after suspension according to the report, the university is operating with no systems programmer.

The report recommends that the university hires at least four (4) staff in this category in both the academic registrar’s department and the finance departments.

“This is a matter of urgency especially as the University plans to acquire a new system. This was a mistake the university made when it acquired the ITS system and gave it to staff with lack of specific competences,” says report.

Monitoring of students’ fees balances is largely dependent on the registration statistics. Despite the current tuition policy that requires students to register for free for the first 12 weeks of the semester, students continue to register up to the examination time.

This matter was formally investigated by the revenue collection unit which reported that while some cases of no-registration are beyond the control of the students, some students are reluctant since they know the university is unable to implement the fines in the policy.

Statistics indicate that out of the budgeted 38,000 students for the 2016/2017 academic year, only 33,288 students had registered which is about 87.6 per cent. Fully paid up students totaled only 27,244.

This is about 81 per cent of the fully registered students while debtors were 6,064 students, or 18 per cent of the fully registered students, owing the university Shs 3.1 billion.