As such, it is believed the ministry of finance is being requested to completely write off the debt as there are no reasonable prospects to pay it off, while the ministry of education has been asked to increase the subvention and release it timely for the institution to effectively meet its obligations.
The debt to SRA is said to be in respect of the Pay as You Earn (PAYE) which the university has failed to remit over the years which by the end of the 2018/2019 financial year was reportedly over E400 million and is now said to have doubled as it was pegged at E720 million by March.
University of Eswatini Registrar Dr Salebona Simelane, when asked about the debt having doubled, said he would not reveal the figure which he said was subject to change as transactions were made each month. He, however, admitted that the financial constraints of the institution were worsening.
“It is true that the institution is facing a financial crisis and the situation is getting worse,” he said.
SRA’s Manager Customer Service Riccardo Kruger said it was unprocedural for the Authority to confirm or deny the matter as the law did not permit them to respond or discuss individual taxes of their clients.
The institution’s failure to remit the PAYE is attributed to the fact that it has over the past five years received a subvention far less than the requested amount for its operations.
The university, on the other hand, states that its efforts to reduce reliance on government through introducing austerity measures, income generation projects and fees hits a snag as it is not at liberty to charge for services and tuition fees as other institutions as it is regulated.
According to the 2018/2019 vice chancellor’s report, the University of Eswatini, being one of the public enterprises subvented by the Eswatini government for its survival and upkeep continues to experience serious financial challenges.
The report further states that on an annual basis, the university prepares and submits its recurrent budget to the government for consideration and funding. The budget is for the university’s needs for the ensuing 12 month period.
“In view of the numerous competing claims all requiring government financial support the university has continued to receive far less than the requested subvention.
It should be pointed out that at least 70 per cent of the university’s total revenue comes from government,” reads the report.
The university states that the requested subvention amount is predicated upon the university’s ability to generate revenue from internal sources.
Internal sources include, but are not limited to tuition fees, residence fees, sale of student meals and application and acceptance fees.
“It should be stated that the university is not at liberty to charge tuition fees linked to the market. Similarly, charges for other services are regulated. This, therefore, suggests that the university has certain limitations regarding what it charges for tuition and other services.
Notwithstanding the prevailing fiscal challenges facing the country, on average, the University receives about 38 per cent of the amount requested. The university thus remains extremely indebted to the government for the continued support,” further reads the report.
The institution states that ever declining operational budget is a cause for great concern as the core business of the University is severely affected.
These include deterioration of the available physical facilities and the university’s inability to maintain laboratory equipment and teaching facilities in an operational state cannot escape mention. This combined with other related challenges, regrettably lead to a sharp decline in the quality of teaching and research, the core business of the institution.
“The university’s efforts to augment its revenue through a number of initiatives including business ventures and useful partnerships are hampered by the ever increasing Eswatini revenue (Pay As You Earn) debt which is currently in excess of E400 million.
“The university’s audited financial statements have an inclusion of this debt. The liabilities which include this debt outweigh the assets; revealing a disturbing state of affairs. Potential business partners would be discouraged to forge links with such an organisation. The going concern of the university is in serious doubt,” the university revealed in June last year when the report was published. In view of the foregoing, the university has made an application to the minister of finance for a complete write off of the debt as there are no reasonable prospects to pay off the debt. The university also stated that it has not rested on its laurels but has continued to consider a number of austerity measures with a view to containing costs. Minister of Education and Training Lady Howard-Mabuza said the ministry has met with the university management, where they were looking at ways of saving the institution though she did not divulge how.
Minister of Finance Neal Rijkenberg, when asked on the progress made in as far as considering the university’s request to scrap its debt, said he would respond on the matter on Tuesday.
In spite of the harsh financial realities experienced in recent times, the university stated that it remained steadfast and resolute in its rigorous pursuit of excellence in education by pushing an innovative strategic agenda. The key pillars of the present strategic plan serve as a demonstration of the university’s commitment to its raison d’tre. These are underpinned by the institution’s attempt at shifting from absolute reliance on government subvention and operational assets for funding to long-term mechanisms of institutional finance. “Paramount among these is the establishment of a limited proprietary holding company (Chakaza Limited) designed to further establish subsidiaries with specific business objectives.
Funding levels of the university in the past 10 years have continued to decline in real terms, compelling the institution to continuously look for new initiatives for fundraising,” states the report.
The university said it has also invited a number of potential partners to explore partnerships that may yield private public partnerships that will add value to the institution. Scholarship issues have remained at the centre of student challenges. “The scholarships for candidates admitted to the university have decreased over the years. In spite of these challenges, the university expresses its gratitude to all the stakeholders, thanking particularly His Majesty’s Government, in all their initiatives in the wake of the current fiscal challenges, in taking all measures possible to expedite processing of allowances of students that has seen class boycotts being reduced,” further reads the report.