A special audit ordered by the State government following the recent staff unrest and financial crisis in Annamalai University has unearthed large scale irregularities, malpractices and mismanagement in the university’s affairs.
Holding the alleged abuse of powers conferred on the university’s founder responsible for the serious malpractices, the government has warned that necessary changes were required to regulate the exercise of powers and privileges by the founder “to ensure that the university is administered in fulfilment of the purposes for which it was established”.
The audit findings led to the government demanding accountability from the University’s Senate and Syndicate. On Wednesday, a special meeting of the Senate was convened, at which several members demanded that the university be brought under government control.
One shocking revelation found in the audit report is that contributions to provident fund and pension funds amounting to Rs. 178 crore had not been remitted into the respective accounts. Further, the university authorities have diverted Rs. 268 crore from the General Fund, Examination Fund and Distance Education fund to run self-financing courses, which are supposed to be self-sufficient.
Armed with a detailed Inspection Report, the State Higher Education Secretary has shot off a letter to the Annamalai University vice-chancellor and demanded that the audit report be placed before special meetings of the Syndicate and Senate and their opinion and action sought. The State government has given the University’s Syndicate seven days to send a report to the government on the action it has taken or plans to take on the Inspection Report, along with the Senate’s opinion.
“The government is of the view that in spite of receiving grant to the tune of Rs. 42,798.24 lakh [Rs. 427.98 crore] during the period from 1998-99 to 2012-13, the university has landed in serious financial crisis. The serious malpractices have occurred due to gross abuse of powers and privileges conferred on the founder,” said the letter to the Annamalai University Registrar and Vice-Chancellor on March 7.
The government had ordered the special audit under provisions of the Annamalai University Act, following a series of events since November 2012, when the campus near Chidambaram was gripped by an agitation marked by protest meetings and fasts by the Joint Action Council of the Annamalai University Teachers and Staff Associations. A Special Local Fund Audit Team was constituted by a December 14 order.
Other key audit findings were: the University has not adhered to UGC or government norms or statutory provisions regarding appointment, promotion and fixation of pay, often fixing far higher scales of paythan permissible. The recurring financial burden as a result for 2009-10 and 2010-11 alone were Rs. 22 crore. It incurred excess expenditure amounting to Rs. 109.98 crore in 2010-11 alone by way of extra posts under Regular Education, Distance Education and Self-Financing courses, and a cumulative superfluous spending of Rs. 576.35 crore.
Violations of the Tender Transparency Act, which is applicable to the University, were noticed, as between 2008 and 2012, construction work was mostly awarded to Chettinad Builders at rates much above the estimates. The lack of an internal mechanism to oversee financial transactions has led to an overall deficit of Rs. 272 crore in the last 15 years and liabilities amounting to Rs. 238 crore.
When contacted from here, a spokesman for the Annamalai University, declining to be quoted, confirmed receiving the audit report from the government. “We received the audit report very recently and we will go by proper procedures,” he said. He added that members of the Syndicate and Senate would pass on their suggestions to the government, and only thereafter would the institution be able to comment on the issue.
At a special meeting of the University’s Senate on Wednesday, members of the Joint Action Council and several others, including vice-chancellors of other universities and governmentofficials recommended that the University be brought under the government’s control completely.
Members of the Joint Action Council of the University said they had protested many times against the illegal appointments that were being made, but were silenced by the management. “In 2010, some protesters were arrested, after which the teachers were reluctant to protest. In November last year, however, we were told the staff strength will be reduced massively and the salaries cut to meet financial problems,” said C. Subramanian, president of the Annamalai University Teachers' Progressive Association and member of the JAC. “The irregularities and malpractices started way back in the 1990s. Most government policies regarding admissions, reservation and appointments have been overlooked,” said Mr. Subramanian.
The University has 12,500 staff, of which 8,900 are non-teaching staff.