TETFund’s allegations against lecturers

Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund)
Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund)

(TETFund) recently accused lecturers in the country’s public tertiary institutions of diverting research grants to build homes, purchase cars and engage in other frivolous activities. Making the allegation in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, TETFund’s Director of Research and Development, Salihu Bakari, said huge sums of money provided to individual lecturers or their research teams for research exercises or conference attendance were usually misappropriated.

Bakari spoke at a capacity building workshop organised by TETFund for select members of staff of the research and development unit from some public tertiary institutions. The workshop is said to be part of the efforts aimed at reorganising research activities in Nigerian tertiary institutions. He said: “It is sad to note that public funds made available to lecturers to conduct ground-breaking and demand-driven researches towards solving Nigeria’s socio-economic and even political challenges are misappropriated by those who are expected to be above board. I mean the beneficiaries of our grants.”

He also noted that the introduction of strict conditions, especially in the disbursement of grants was occasioned by the culture of impunity, breach of trust and violations of funding agreements and rules of engagement by lecturers. He said “Through our recovery efforts, we traced monies to houses built by lecturers with the public fund. There are cases of cars purchased with the money without any research work done.” He similarly accused many institutions of committing worse infractions.

TETFund further accused tertiary institutions and lecturers of not accessing the huge funds available at the organisation for research activities and the development of innovative programmes. “Today, we have decided to shift our focus and we have opened more doors of opportunities for both the lecturers and their institutions to attract funds to showcase their expertise. But what do we see? No one is coming for the funds.

However, while some of the allegations made by TETFund sound gratuitous, others seem spurious. For instance, no research grant is released to a researcher or a team of researchers without a budget. Budgets submitted by researchers are usually subjected to thorough scrutiny by a screening committee at TETFund. Furthermore, research grants are never paid directly into beneficiaries’ accounts. Rather, such monies are received through the accounts of their respective institutions; making the latter also liable in the allegation.

If anything, Bakari’s allegations suggest that some TETFund officials collaborate with the lecturers to divert funds or that funds tracking mechanisms at TETFund are weak. Either of the insinuations is an indictment on TETFund. Both TETFund as well as the institution where the research is domiciled are responsible for monitoring the research, from beginning to the end. Besides, research grants are not disbursed in one tranche but in phases and according to how the research progresses. How then does a researcher succeed in diverting the money approved in a research budget to buy a car or build a house?

On lecturers failing to access research grants, Bakari needs to reconcile this allegation with a paid advertorial published on page 47 of the Daily Trust newspaper of Monday October 14, 2019. TETFund declared in the advert that 405 Concept Notes were found worthy to be shortlisted for full proposal out of 3,000 submitted by researchers in respect of the 2019 National Research Fund (NRF). His should tell Nigerians how many of the 405 full research proposals were selected, after submission, for funding from the 2019 NRF. Bakari’s response would confirm or refute the allusion among lecturers that ‘connection’, not merit, is the basic requirement for winning a research grant from TETFund.

The director’s choice of Dubai for the public declaration of the allegations against lecturers was inappropriate. TETFund’s decision to hold the workshop outside Nigeria contradicts the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration’s policy of prudent management of public funds. While we urge the Minister of Education to probe TETFund’s allegations, we encourage anti-graft agencies including the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) to investigate and prosecute any researcher found to have diverted research grants.

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