Universities’ acts amended to bring VCs under scrutiny
LAHORE, Dec 10: The Punjab government has amended Punjab Universities’ Acts to bring vice-chancellors under scrutiny after identifying unabated misuse of powers by them under the garb of emergency powers.
At occasions, the Punjab government reports, the vice-chancellors were found assuming powers of the Chancellor — the Punjab Governor.
The Punjab government has withdrawn powers of vice-chancellors for creating and filling temporary posts for a period of six months.
It also bound vice-chancellors to report their actions taken while using emergency powers to the pro-chancellor (higher education minister) and syndicate members within a week and get the actions ratified by the syndicate within 45 days.
The Punjab government has identified and reported that almost all Punjab universities’ vice-chancellors had appointed top officials in universities, including registrars, treasurers and controller of examinations by giving additional charge to their “favourite” faculty members, while under the act this power exclusively rested with the Chancellor or Syndicate.
The vice-chancellors have also been found blatantly violating Chancellor’s powers of settling terms and conditions of all posts in universities.
The Punjab government found vice-chancellors of Punjab University; University of Engineering and Technology, Taxila; Islamia University Bahawalpur; Government College University, Faisalabad; Bahauddin Zikariya University, Multan; Government College University, Lahore; Lahore College for Women University; University of Education, Lahore; University of Sargodha; and Fatima Jinnah Women University, Rawalpindi; notorious for abusing their emergency powers unabated.
The matter of unabated misuse of powers was first identified by the Public Accounts Committee and then the chief minister himself who constituted various committees to identify misuse of powers by vice-chancellors and review their powers by all relevant departments including law, higher education, health, agriculture as well as livestock and dairy development.
Committees identified that the Punjab University vice-chancellor reported the appointment of academic departments and institutes’ chairmen and directors, respectively, to the Syndicate after two-and-a-half years in 1691 meeting of the Syndicate on April 21, 2012.
The PU VC also issued 28 emergency orders under section 15(3) of the PU Act (1688 Syndicate meeting on July 30, 2011) and creation of posts of additional registrar, additional controller of examinations and additional treasurer without the approval of statutes. The VC also passed 41 emergency orders within three months after the 1689 Syndicate meeting.
The PU VC had also created a mass communication department on varsity’s Gujranwala Campus while using his emergency powers. He, however, had to withdraw his decision and abolish the department following resistance from the PU faculty of social and behavioural sciences dean.
The UET, Taxila, VC issued 77 (35+42) emergency orders according to the Syndicate meetings held on January 31 and May 30, 2012. He also issued nine emergency orders according to the Finance and Planning Committee meeting on May 11, 2012.
The Islamia University, Bahawalpur, VC issued 317 (241+76) emergency orders with reference to appointments/extensions according to the September 5 and December 2, 2012, Syndicate meetings.
The Punjab government committees observed that the PU, UET, Taxila and IUB vice-chancellors issued emergency orders even when regular meetings of the Syndicate and F&P were being held.
With regard to the VC’s emergency powers “to create and fill temporary posts for a period not exceeding six months”, the Punjab government committees were unanimous in saying that “these powers have been abused unabated”.
Citing some instances, the committees identified that the Punjab University VC made 350 appointments while using his emergency powers.
The Punjab government had initiated an inquiry on the orders of the Sub-Committee on Assembly Questions and it found that more than 250 appointments were made without observing the codal formalities.
The Government College University, Faisalabad, VC appointed more than 700 officials/officers, hired 10 retired civil servants including the 72-year-old director of the Human Resource Management (HRM).
The Bahauddin Zikariya University, Multan, VC made more than 150 appointments on his last working day.
The Government College University, Lahore, VC appointed nine officers. The gravity of the violation in appointing nine officers could be gauged from the fact that it resulted in three Public Accounts Committee audit paras.
The Lahore College for Women University VC made 125 appointments during 2009-10, re-employed six retired officers and recently employed two retired officers (65 and 69 years old) at a salary of Rs200,000 per month without the approval of statutes.
The University of Education VC made 95 appointments. Some audit paras against the VC were pending with the Public Accounts Committee and an inquiry had been ordered against the VC.
The University of Sargodha VC made 30 appointments of retired officials/officers; allowed 50 per cent of the basic pay as deputation allowance to ex-registrar.
He also issued more than 200 emergency orders in the last six months. The VC also hired an official, Imran Ghani (retired), who was under inquiry.
The Islamia University Bahawalpur VC made more than 500 appointments.
The Fatima Jinnah Women University VC made 226 appointments, who were later regularized and were now claiming pay protection.
The Punjab government has also amended universities acts with regard to the appointment and functions of the Pro-Vice-Chancellor (PVC).
The provision of PVC was already available in the Acts of four public sector universities before the amendment. The government stated: “It is the discretion of the chief minister (government) to propose one out of the three senior most professors as PVC”.
Following identification of misuse of powers by VCs, Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif had constituted a committee under the chairmanship of Senator Ishaq Dar.
The committee comprised chief secretary and administrative secretaries of Higher Education, Health, Law, Livestock and Dairy Development and Agriculture departments.
The committee discussed and reviewed all issues and the law secretary finally solicited chief minister’s approval for a combined proposal for amendments to Punjab Universities’ Acts.
The Punjab Assembly’s Standing Committee on Education gave explicit directions for amendments to the powers of VCs in the light of more than 350 appointments made by the Punjab University VC without following prescribed procedures.
The amendments were discussed in detail in the Punjab Cabinet and later twice by the Standing Committee on Education.
The Punjab Higher Education Department had invited all vice-chancellors to attend the Standing Committee meeting but not a single VC came to attend it.
Still, the Punjab government has clarified that emergency powers of vice-chancellors had not been abolished but qualified that the action taken by the VC should be reported to the Pro-Chancellor and Syndicate members within seven days and presented before the Syndicate within 45 days.
“If anything, the amendment has strengthened the oversight of the governing body of the university — the Syndicate,” the government said.
The Punjab government said the Syndicate had the powers to create posts (permanent/temporary) and therefore it left no justification for six months powers for VCs.
The Punjab government reiterated that the terms and conditions of all posts had to be settled by the Chancellor, which was regularly being violated by VCs. “The amendment will put a stop to this blatant violation,” the government said.