The University of Rwanda (UR) owes at least Rwf6 billion in arrears dating back over two decades in employee contributions to the pension body, members of parliament heard on Tuesday, July 27. Appearing before the parliament to shed light on management issues that have plagued the country’s national university for long, the Minister for Education Valentine Uwamariya said that a comprehensive audit to determine how many employees have not been covered is still ongoing but so far, they have 1,900. She blamed the arrears on budgetary constraints but promised that the money has already started being disbursed as the audit continues. “An audit is still ongoing to determine how many those who are owed are but as the process continues, at least Rwf2bn has been disbursed to Rwanda Social Security Board,” she said. Admission of mismanagement Uwamariya admitted that there have been gross errors in financial management in the past but added that a lot of human resources is being invested in fixing these issues. She attributed most of the problems to the 2013 university merger that saw each institution carry forward its problems which even created more confusion. The government merged at least eight tertiary institutions to increase efficiency and boost the quality of education in the country, among other benefits. For instance, Uwamariya pointed out that there are debts that are owed by the university and others owed to the university that lack supporting documents. “UR was originally owed about Rwf11billion. So far, at least Rwf4billion has been recovered but we are yet to get supporting documents for the remaining Rwf6.8billion,” she said. However, she said that a ‘clean up’ exercise is ongoing and so far, it has been discovered that some of this money goes as far back as 1987. She suggested that UR is given an opportunity to separate old and newer debts so that they are both given special attention. On the other hand, UR also owed contractors at least Rwf14 billion. Uwamariya explained that although Rwf4.3 billion was paid off, more than Rwf8billion is yet to be cleared since there are no supporting documents. Student arrears She touched on the $110,000 (Rwf110 million) that is owed by eleven students who were given scholarships to pursue Masters Degrees in Computer Science but were erased from the books without any explanation or effort to recuperate the funds. The scholarships were approved in 2005. Uwamariya explained that the names of the students were scrapped from the list of people who owed the university money based on the fact that recouping these funds is a responsibility of the Development Bank of Rwanda (BRD) and the Higher Education Board. However, she assured the legislators that the two institutions are actively pursuing the beneficiaries to recover the money. IT-related challenges Uwamariya touched on the Integrated Education Business Management Information System (IEBMIS) used by UR and blamed much of the issues that have dogged the system on the restrictions by the supplier. IEBMIS was acquired to automate the university’s core processes including registration, financial and human resources management. She explained that the system was purchased from a South African company called ADAPT IT LIMITED but since then, UR has been forced to often depend on the seller from who it continues to outsource service due to the university’s lack of control over the system. A report by the Auditor-General indicates that the system is not serving its intended purpose while UR continues to spend money on it. Only three out of 14 modules of IEBMIS equivalent to 21.4 percent are partially utilized while 11 modules equivalent to 78.6 per cent have never been put to use. Available data indicates that the system has accumulated over Rwf2.3 billion since it was acquired nine years ago. Uwamariya explained that so far, there are training programs in the pipeline that will cover different parts of operating the modules. “There are plans to provide training regarding the student management module, student admission and registration, finance, human resource management and asset management among others,” she said. However, to gain independence over the system, she said that UR is putting in place a strong team made up of students and lecturers from the School of ICT, Center of Excellence in Internet of Things and Center of Excellence in Data Science. “This team will rely on the IEBMISS to create a new system that will be linked to others that are used by other government systems,” she said. MP Jean-Claude Ntezimana inquired about whether UR prepares its students before they are sent to the labour market. “Majority of students who complete their education do not know where to begin when it comes to joining the career world. Are there career advisory services at the university to guide these students on how to move forward?” he wondered. To this, Uwamariya responded that the services exist but she admitted that they are not being utilised well enough for them to bear fruits to their full potential.