Medard Sseggona, Chairperson Public Accounts Committee
MPs on Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee have questioned the decision by Government to establish Muni University in West Nile region, yet the science based University has been engulfed in unreliable power supply.
The concern culminated from a meeting held between PAC and officials of Muni University who had appeared to respond to the queries raised in 2021 auditor general report that highlighted that a number of laboratory equipment like PCR Machine, high capacity fridge for preserving laboratory equipment hadn’t been put to use due to power outages.
Officials from Muni University told MPs that the project had not been put to use due to power shortages at the time of audit but the University was able to extend better electricity line in the multipurpose health science laboratory to make this equipment functional and later in 2021/2022, the University acquired a 1,5000 KVA generator to make all the laboratory equipment functional.
However, Medard Sseggona, Chairperson Public Accounts Committee questioned why the science based University was established without considering the issue of power, and wondered if it was time to have the University liquidated due to power shortages.
“It is expensive to continue running a University on a generator, but it goes back to planning, how could we establish a science based University which doesn’t access electricity. Maybe we should liquidate and wind up this University and take it elsewhere,” he said.
Emmanuel Banya, Muni University Secretary informed the Committee that due to power outages, the University has resorted to using solar power during the day and a generator during the night, but the cost of diesel has proved this option costly and the situation is worsened by budget cuts where the University is receiving meager funds in its development budget.
He explained that the University isn’t connected to the national grid, but gets power from Nyagak Power Plant and Eletromax which are the two sources of power but are unreliable, prompting the University to procure a 1,500 KV generator to support reagents, systems and everything at the University.
“However the challenge we have at hand is that managing this system is very expensive. On average, we spend Shs8litres of fuel per hour which is diesel, meaning on one full day of no power, we spend 192 liters in 24hours,” said Banya.
Sseggona also raised concern over the slow pace at which the University is failing to take advantage of its strategic location in order to attract students from Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan, saying this is denying government from collecting revenue from the international students.
“Muni University has some fair advantage over other Universities in that the possibility of attracting foreign students in that area you cover is high. You will have to tell us why you haven’t been able to attract a significant number of foreign students, which would help our neighbours access quality education but also provide us with an opportunity for Non Tax Revenue,” said Sseggona.
Banya blamed the low rates of attracting foreign students on absence of accommodation at the University, which pushes foreign students away remarking, “You will also realize that Muni University is a non-campus University we don’t have halls of residence that could easily attract foreign students comfortably within the University premises. If we can have that sorted out, eventually many people will be interested in bringing their children to the University because there is proper accommodation. The so called hostels we have around are in terrible shape to accommodate international students of high caliber.”
During the interface, the MPs also raised concern on the low staffing levels at the University after discovering that Muni University with a student population of 700 students and is teaching 10 programs only has two professors.
The Committee is slated to interface with Mbarara University of Science and Technology as well as Uganda Management Institute tomorrow.