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Thursday, July 13, 2006

Audit uncovers National Training Unit (NTU) Anomalies

By OFANI EREMAE

There are serious mismanagement, inappropriate budgetary practices, poor record keeping and biased awarding of scholarships within the National Training Unit (NTU).
An audit of the unit by the Office of the Auditor General uncovered these grave anomalies.

NTU is a body within the Ministry of Education responsible for management and awarding of tertiary scholarships.But the audit report revealed serious breakdowns in critical management systems and procedures in the administration of the scholarship programme.

“We identified many instances where scholarships have been awarded at the minister’s discretion or by the Permanent Secretary or Under-Secretary outside of the normal NTC process,” the audit report says. It also found that students who do not meet scholarship requirements are being awarded scholarships.

The report says the Ministry currently has no approved guidelines for the selection, approval and on-going monitoring of tertiary scholarships. This, it added, has led to subjective and inappropriate practices. “There is minimal assessment criteria applied to scholarship applications. “There is no weighing of selection criteria, no ranking of student applications, no documentation maintained to explain why a scholarship was awarded or not awarded.

“Applicants are provided with no guidance when applying for scholarships which is resulting in numerous queries being directed at NTU officers, which diminishes their ability to perform their duties effectively,” the report said.

The audit also uncovered that there’s no system in place within NTU to manage and monitor scholarships. “There are no procedures for retention of student data, there is poor recording of student information and poor monitoring of on-going student performance.

“We identified a number of students who were awarded pre-service scholarships but who did not meet the Grade Point Average (GPA) requirement.”

The audit noted that the poor record keeping practices had made it impossible to locate large numbers of applications for 2004, 2005 and 2006. “There’s no evidence of approval of scholarships by National Training Committee. “Therefore we were unable to sight approvals of large numbers of awarded scholarships for 2004, 2005 and 2006.

“The Ministry may be funding non-approved students for tertiary education,” the report added. The audit also discovered preferential treatment in awarding of scholarships to partners.

“The National Training Committee awarded scholarships to partners of students already in receipt of a scholarship based primarily on the fact that one partner already has a scholarship. “This was basically made in an attempt to keep the family unit together.

“But this is unfair to other more qualified applicants who may miss out on a scholarship or who may provide greater benefit to Solomon Islands through their studies. “Also in some instances, couples delay completion of their studies so that both partners can remain together until the partner who received their scholarship last completed their study,” the report says.

The report said it is evident that the scholarship programme is poorly managed and is not providing value for money to the Solomon Islands Government.

It recommended that a tertiary scholarship policy be developed and NTU strengthened.
Auditor General Floyd Augustine Fatai said the audit of NTU was conducted earlier this year. He submitted the report to the Ministry of Education three weeks ago.
Mr Fatai said he is still waiting for NTU to respond to his findings. The audit report was made public yesterday at the Education Sector Coordinating Committee Annual Joint Review in Honiara.

Source: Solomon Star

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