The University of T&T (UTT) recorded a deficit of $33 million last month while its reserves currently stand at $2 million. Meanwhile, $323,059,056 of the university’s “unspent funds” have been transferred to the UTT’s Signature Building Complex project at Tamana InTech Park.
UTT’s financial statements for the year ended September 30, 2016 (draft dated March 29, 2017–unaudited) stated:
“It should be noted that by letter dated 26 September 2016 from theMinistry of Education, the Ministry advised that the Government of Trinidad and Tobago approved the utilization of $323,059,056 from “unspent funds” to the University’s Signature Building Complex project at Tamana InTech Park.
In effect, this is a re-allocation of funds received as Recurrent Subventions to Capital Grant Funds.
“The University has in Year 2016 transferred $323,059,056 from its reserves, and concomitantly transferred these funds from Operating Funds to Capital Projects Funds.
With this reclassification, Year 2015 Comparatives have been adjusted accordingly.”
For the past several months, UTT has been seeing “hard times” including the cutting of staff—both managerial and academic, the discontinuation of programmes and the late delivery of salaries to staff. On November 1, UTT’s Chairman of the Board of Governors Prof Kenneth Julien announced that UTT will not be able to continue operations beyond January 2018. He also noted that effective November 10, there was expected to be job losses across the board.
Julien said this was as a result of severe financial constraints over the past year.
Julien further explained that the challenges worsened with the further 11 per cent decrease in UTT’s 2017/2018 recurrent allocation to TT$200 million.
Julien was the brainchild behind the InTech Park.
UTT usually gets a monthly subvention of $16.7 million, however for the months of October and November they only received $10 million for each month.
On December 12, UTT president, Prof Sarim Al-Zubaidy informed UTT’s student body that there will be no new intake of students at the university in the new academic year 2018/2019 in three of the university’s major programmes. The academic programmes/ areas were identified as: biomedical engineering, environmental science and management, bioscience and agriculture and health sciences.
Al-Zubaidy later invited all members of staff to a meeting on December 14 to discuss the present hardships faced by UTT.
The meeting titled “With you in Mind” was held at UTT’s Valsayn Campus.
The speakers included: Vice President Capital Projects, Facilities Management & Infrastructure, Dave Bhajan; Ag VP Human Resources, Leah Ramgattie; Ag VP Finance Feona Lue Ping Wa and chief executive officer PEAPSL Consultancy Limited, Neil Parsanlal, former PNM minister under the Patrick Manning regime.
The Valsayn meeting was one of four held at UTT’s locations throughout T&T.
At that meeting, Bhajan used the analogy of amputating to save a life to describe the current situation.
In a two-minute presentation, Lue Ping Wa reiterated that the university “cannot continue like this” and gave assurances that salaries will be paid on time.
For academic year 2016/17 UTT received $207 million and the following was spent on salaries: $175.6 million on academic staff and $135.3 million on administrative staff.
The Sunday Guardian was told that several members of staff walked out when Parsanlal began to speak. They said Parsanlal sought to inform them about his company’s role in providing support services to them at this crucial juncture.
Several members of staff raised issues about the current financial climate as well as the way in which the university handles various matters.
Members of staff said they were left more confused as none of the questions asked were directly answered and no assurances were forthcoming from the management team.
The situation is grim: UTT vice chairman
UTT Vice Chairman Prof Clement Imbert admitted that the financial status of the university is grim and added that the delay and reduction in the Government’s funds only added to the woes.
Imbert said, however, that he could not comment further as there are ongoing tripartite discussions with UTT, the Ministry of Education and the representing union, the Oilfield Workers’ Trade Union.
The next meeting is scheduled for mid-January.
Karim: It is jeopardising the university Former tertiary education minister Fazal Karim questioned why there was “this compulsion to deplete the finances of the university and transfer it to a project which is incomplete and whose future remains uncertain”.
Karim said there have been no statements or plan with regards to the completion and utilisation of the Tamana Campus. “By transferring this huge sum of money, it has further jeopardised the sustainability of the university, its programmes and the strong potential for job losses.” Since UTT’s financial position was made public, Karim had been saying that “we left a healthy balance sheet at UTT” when we demitted office.
Yesterday he said, “This is evident by the significant sums were left in the university’s account.
How did you get documents? I cannot comment until I meet with board Minister of Education Anthony Garcia, who asked how the Sunday Guardian got the documents in its possession, said that he could not comment until he held discussions with UTT’s