Unlike the expression, ‘finding a needle in a haystack’, the committee recently constituted by Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund) to carry out an impact assessment of its intervention activities in beneficiary institutions may not have to search too far to unravel how the Fund’s projects were implemented in the last two decades. FELIX KHANOBA reports.
Every year within the last two decades, hundreds of government-owned universities, polytechnics and colleges of education have consistently lined up in Abuja for the annual ‘ritual’ of receiving allocation letters from TETFund.
The letter contains the full details of allocated money (hundreds of millions of naira and in some cases over a billion naira) that will be expended by TETFund on projects in each beneficiary institution.
Such intervention has over the years see to most public universities and other institutions wearing a new look.
TETFund’s intervention in the educational institutions which cut across funding projects through annual direct disbursements, high impact scheme, zonal intervention, research grant, academic training, among others, has seen to tremendous transformation of the schools but has not also been devoid of criticisms in some quarters on how the beneficiary institutions are expending the money allocated to them.
This is not unconnected with the seeming absence of ideal correlation between the whopping amount of money disbursed by TETFund to beneficiary institutions and the available outcome in some of the recipient universities, as well as some reported cases of lecturers that collected grants for academic training programme but ended up diverting the money to other purposes or for mere self-aggrandisement.
Between 2011 and 2015 alone, about N500 billion was said to have been expended by TETFund on various intervention projects in beneficiary institutions while in 2016 over N213 billion was allocated to 183 beneficiary institutions.
The 2016 allocation, which is reputed to be the highest so far recorded by TETFund since inception, saw to each university receiving N1.009 billion as annual direct disbursement while every beneficiary polytechnic and college of education went home with N691 million and N679 million respectively.
TETFund’s direct annual disbursement to each university, apart from its other interventions, was N303.14 million in 2010, N395 million in 2011, N595 million in 2012, N646 million in 2013, N912 million in 2014 and N317 million in 2015.
While some institutions have been unable to access one or two of their yearly allocations in TETFund’s coffers due to inability to fully and effectively utilise the previous money given to them, others often find it difficult to clearly defend proposed projects thereby affecting such approval and the timely release of funds.
But determined to ensure that no stone is left unturned to reposition TETFund for better performance in line with its mandate, the Executive Secretary of the Fund, Prof. Suleiman Bogoro, recently inaugurated a committee to evaluate intervention projects embarked upon by the agency from 1999 to 2018.
The agency, which was formerly known as Education Trust Fund (ETF) before it was re-baptised as TETFund through the Act of Parliament in 2011, has its main mandate to provide funding for the provision and maintenance of essential physical infrastructure for teaching and learning; Instructional material and equipment; Research and publication; Academic Staff Training and Development; and any other need which, in the opinion of the Board of Trustees, is critical and essential for the improvement of quality and maintenance of standards in the higher educational institutions.
The TETFund’s Technical Advisory Committee on Impact Assessment (TACIA), which has already hit the ground running with members drawn from Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) and other seasoned academics and stakeholders outside the organisation, has been seen as an example of bringing new meaning to the issue of transparency and accountability, thereby raising the hope for a better higher education delivery.
“We need outside evaluators that are not TETFund’s members. The (performance) analysis will be done by this independent body.
“The team has been carefully picked to reflect some of the best experts on development work , research and scholarship,” Prof. Bogoro said during the inauguration of the 62-man committee which is co-chaired by Prof. Placid Njoku and Prof. Nazifi Darma.
Also speaking at a meeting with heads of beneficiary institutions in Abuja few days ago, Prof. Bogoro made it crystal clear to vice chancellors, rectors and provosts that there is need to ensure that their books on TETFund intervention projects are fully opened to the committee.
He said the move to evaluate intervention projects of the agency from 1999 to 2018 is aimed at improving the delivery of its mandate.
“In the 20 years of its interventions, the Fund had never presented itself for self-evaluation or examination. Impact assessment which we are about to undertake is a contemporary phenomenon for reviewing and assessing progress made by any organization, is important to the Fund as it would reveal the strengths, weaknesses, progress, challenges and windows of opportunities for it to improve on its service delivery to its beneficiaries.
“We at TETFund are determined to maintain our status as one of the most visible, impactful and relevant intervention agencies that has become a model in Africa,” Prof. Bogoro, who was represented by Barr. Ifiok Ukim, Director of Strategic Planning and Development, said during the meeting with the heads of beneficiary institutions.
The committee, which has 29 November, 2019, to submit its report has its terms of reference to include propose future direction of the Fund within the TETFund Statutory mandate as encapsulated in the TETFund Establishment Act 2011; Determine the achievements, challenges and weaknesses recorded and observed in the course of implementation of intervention programmes, among others.
Many believe that with the passion being brought to bear by Prof. Bogoro to reposition TETfund’s for better performance, beneficiary institutions will have no option than to also leverage on the impact committee’s report to ensure only credible contractors are engaged in the delivery of all intervention projects.