Suakoko, Bong County – Students of Cuttington University (CU) in Suakoko, Bong County are learning under difficult and strenuous circumstances due to lack of electricity and other amenities on the campus.
The ones in the Science College can hardly complete laboratory projects owning to lack of vital chemicals and equipment.
The CU students also find it difficult studying at night as a result of very limited supply of electricity.
At the moment, the university is only able to provide an hour of electricity during the day and two hours during the evening hours.
“We cannot have an increment in tuition and other fees, and then we have only one hour of electricity during the day and two hours of electricity during the night. How does Dr. [Herman] Browne expect us to study and do laboratory projects without electricity?
This is unfair to us because our parents are paying a lot of money for us to learn,” said a female student. This student had asked that her name be kept privy fearing that she might be expelled or suspended indefinitely if her identity were known.
Dr. Browne is the university’s President.
Other angry students, who also did not want to be named for the same reason, said Dr. [Henrique] Tokpa’s administration as President, was far better than his successor, Dr. Browne.
According to the students, they received at least 18 hours of electricity with the same budgetary allotment that the institution operated with under Dr. Tokpa. One quipped: “This is the same budget that Dr. Browne is operating in but how come he keeps complaining that there is no money.”
But an investigation conducted by, and documents in possession of, this newspaper show that a number of government’s agencies and(Bong County) legislative caucuses and other (lawmakers) are somehow responsible for the “no money syndrome” at the university.
This newspaper also found out that the CU President is also not directly responsible for the constraints faced by the university.
FPA found out that those agencies and others owe the university more than half a million dollars in back debts.
Those entities include the Bong County Legislative Caucus, some legislators, government agencies and some counties’ administrations are responsible for the university’s dilemma.
The chart shows entities and amounts owed Cuttington University
In a recent interview conducted on the main campus of the university in Bong County, Dr. Browne disclosed that money owed by the government and others is too huge to be ignored.
“We are not talking about five or ten thousand; we are talking about US$750,000 in debt. That amount of money can run an entire semester and do other things. We have pre-financed their students or wards; we fed and sheltered them.
Now, it is time to pay what they owe us, but they are not doing so. This goes to the Legislature, the Judiciary and other agencies, including the Ministries of Education, State for Presidential Affairs, Health, etc,” said Dr. Browne.
Speaking on the subsidy the institution receives from the government, the CU President added that the government has reneged on its goodwill for more than a year.
He disclosed that the government’s subsidy was used to provide fuel to run the generator which provided the electricity, but the fund is not forth coming.
“The subsidy used to be a million dollars; it was later reduced by half. It is still being reduced, and this reduced amount is not forthcoming at all. To crown it up, institutions and individuals who owe the university, have just refused to pay their debts.
"We are stranded. They keep promising to pay, years after years. We have been pleading with the Legislature and others including the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning to consider us with some urgency. The whole issue is not about getting the money to run the university, it is also about paying the instructors as well,” he stated.
Efforts to get Bong County Legislative Caucus, which owes more US$350,000, proved futile as reelected Senator Prince Moye, didn’t answer his phone after several attempts. Neither did he return the calls or text message sent to him at least to get a respond on behalf of county’s caucus.
Other legislators, particularly a senior staff member of former House Speaker J. Alex Tyler’s office only known as Massah, had promised to get back in touch on Monday (March 12) when contacted Friday, March 9, concerning a response from her former boss’ office, stated that she was out of office and had promised to address the issue on Monday. She didn’t get back and her phone was said to be switched off when this newspaper tried getting back.
Only the Ministry of Education, responded through its Director of Scholarship, Mr. Theophilus Snorton. He admitted to owing the university for only a semester, but “due to situation beyond the Ministry’s control,” their debts have not been paid.
“We have been paying the Ministry’s scholarship fund to the university, but because of the transition and recent elections, everything is on hold for now. If you can go by the Finance Ministry, you will see that we have done all the documentations for the money to be paid,” stated Snorton.
Other agencies on the listing either had people answering the phones and saying they were not aware of the debt, because they had just been appointed to the offices, while others’ phones rang endlessly without responds from holders.