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November 12, 2019

Massive fraudin GCU foreignfaculty programme

Lahore

November 12, 2019

LAHORE:Government College University’s School of Mathematical Sciences (SMS) has made its report public about financial embezzlement of around half a billion rupees in the school’s foreign faculty programme, with recommendations to refer the case to the National Accountability Bureau (NAB).

According to the report, a copy available with The News, foreign faculty members hired for the GCU-SMS (now Abdus Salam School of Mathematical Sciences) under the Foreign Faculty Hiring Programme (FFHP) of the Higher Education Commission (HEC) between 2003 to 2013 were not even in Pakistan for substantial part of the time for which money from HEC was received indicating that the GCU-SMS was running a huge “ghost faculty” programme.

In March this year, a three-member committee comprising Dr Amer Iqbal (Convener), Professor Abdus Salam School of Mathematical Sciences, Dr Fiazuddin Zaman, Visiting Professor (member) and Muhammad Imran Khan, Administrative & Finance Officer (member) of the school was formed to scrutinise 10-year record of the hiring of foreign professors at the GCU-SMS.

As per the report, GCU-SMS had received Rs638 million from the HEC for the foreign faculty programme. While sharing the correspondence with foreign faculty in the report, the committee noted that there was a discrepancy of approximately Rs500 million.

The report highlighted that the payments to faculty whose duration of appointment was less than a year constituted about 3.6 percent of the total amount; therefore, the committee decided to write to only those whose duration of appointment was more than a year. The committee wrote to 38 foreign faculty members to verify the salary payments as these payments constituted about 91 percent of the total amount.

The committee found that in most cases these foreign faculty members spent few weeks to few months in Pakistan while this fact was not reported to HEC as letters were being exchanged with HEC demanding the monthly salaries of foreign faculty without mentioning that most of them were not present in Pakistan.

The committee with its correspondence with the foreign faculty, including those from France, Italy, Russia, Turkey, Slovakia, Bulgaria, Romania and Georgia and other countries also found that in many cases, they did not receive the salary which was in records of the GCU-SMS.

The committee found that as per the GCU-SMS record one Prof Martin Baca had received approximately USD 179,000 for five years and nine months service at the school. However, the professor had worked only for a total of 316 days in total and hence there was a discrepancy of more than USD 130,000 in that case alone.

“This raises the issue that since the salaries were being deposited in a local bank how were they being withdrawn if the foreign faculty was not present in Pakistan. If the cheques withdrawing the money were made out to the account holder and were cashed when the account holder (foreign faculty member) was not present in Pakistan then clearly the bank officials were also involved in this fraud,” reads the report.

It is pertinent to mention here that Foreign Faculty Hiring Programme (FFHP) was launched in 2003 when Dr Atta-ur-Rehman was Chairman of the HEC. Dr Alla Ditta Raza Chaudhry was Director General of the SMS from 2003 to 2014 while Dr Khalid Aftab was the Vice-Chancellor of the GCU from 2002-2011.

The committee also noted that the foreign faculty hiring programme ran for 126 months which means that GCU-SMS received, on average, approximately Rs5 million per month.

“SMS officials could not have run this huge long-term embezzlement scam for so many years without the help and connivance of the officials of the Government College University (Lahore) and the officials of the Higher Education Commission. This also shows utter incompetence of Government College University (Lahore) and HEC officials who spent hundreds of millions of rupees of taxpayer money on a ghost faculty programme,” the report further reads.

A GCU spokesperson, on behalf of VC Prof Dr Asghar Zaidi said this news was an embarrassment for everyone who is associated with the legendary institute like the GCU Lahore.

“We will form commission for a full investigation on this matter. We need not shy away from addressing the problem head on. If true, we will deal with all those directly or indirectly involved. We will make this as an example while also putting in place a system of checks and balances so that no such irregularity happens at the GCU Lahore. The VC believed that he would have the fullest support from the Chancellor and the HED (Higher Education Department) for this cause,” concluded the spokesperson.

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