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Friday, April 12, 2024

“Ghost Faculty” of GCU Received Rs 638 Million in 10 Years

The GCU has conducted an internal inquiry to examine the misappropriation of Rs.638 million worth of funds on a “ghost program” meant for foreign faculty members of the Abdus Salam School of Mathematical Sciences (ASSMS).

The Government College University (GCU) Lahore conducted an internal inquiry, which revealed that payments worth Rs638 million were being paid to “ghost” foreign faculty members of the Abdus Salam School of Mathematical Sciences (ASSMS) from 2003 to 2013.

The inquiry committee, spearheaded by the incumbent ASSMS director-general Professor G Murtaza discovered that the majority of the funds given by the Higher Education Commission (HEC) under the Foreign Faculty Hiring Programme (FFHP) to hire faculty members from overseas universities have been embezzled.

Rs638 Million Funds Misappropriated

Reports reveal that 58 faculty members were hired from various foreign institutions, and their monthly wages were deposited in local bank accounts, which were opened with the assistance of the GCU authorities.

The officials of the ASSMS were discovered to be involved in the program, including Dr. Allah Ditta Raza Choudhary, former Director-General ASSMS, and Ejaz Malik, the former finance and administration director.

Officials involved within the program from the HEC include former Chairman Dr. Atta-ur Rehman, former Executive Director Dr. Sohail Naqvi, and former FFHP project director Wasim Hashmi Syed. Reports reveal that the foreign faculty members had only spent a brief amount of time in Pakistan, and despite that, their salaries kept flowing into their bank accounts.

The report stated, “There was no direct communication between the HEC and the foreign faculty members. The email addresses of the faculty members on the application form for the FFHP were those of Dr. ADR Choudhary, who was the director-general of ASSMS. Foreign faculty members were not even aware of the offer details and other terms and conditions.”

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“The correspondence with foreign faculty shows that they did not receive the salary in many cases and the salaries were being deposited with a local bank (and how they were being withdrawn if the foreign faculty was not present in Pakistan).”

“If the cheques were cashed when the account holder (foreign faculty member) was not present in Pakistan then clearly the bank officials were also involved in the fraud.”

The report added, “If the cheques were made out to someone other than the account holder then clearly that person is involved in the fraud. Some faculty members in their replies have mentioned signing blank papers. If these also include checkbooks then clearly they knew what they were involved in.”

The report stated that Rs. 638 million were obtained from the HEC, and the foreign faculty members were not in Pakistan for a significant amount of the time, which “indicates that ASSMS was running a huge ghost faculty program.”

It added, “This could not have happened without the consent of the then director-general, Dr. Choudhary, and director finance and administration Ejaz Malik.”

“It is estimated, based on invitation letters (provided by ASSMS staff) and correspondence with foreign faculty, that there is a discrepancy of approximately Rs500m, and a more precise figure can be obtained after getting immigration records.”

Investigating the “Ghost Programme”

The report further added, “FFHP ran for 126 months which means that ASSMS received, on average, approximately Rs5m per month. ASSMS officials could not have run this huge long-term embezzlement scam for so many years without the help and connivance of the officials of the GCU and the officials of the Higher Education Commission. This also shows utter incompetence of GCU and HEC officials who spent hundreds of millions of rupees of taxpayers’ money on a ghost program.”

The recommendations put forward by the inquiry committee stated that it is evident that a significant portion of the HEC’s funds allocated to the ASSMS was spent on a “ghost program” and therefore, the findings of the report must be shared with the HEC authorities and other relevant stakeholders, including the Punjab government and Governor, who is also the chancellor of the ASSMS.

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The committee recommended that the immigration records of the foreign faculty members can be used to examine the exact duration of their presence in Pakistan. The report stated, “The money was withdrawn from bank accounts of foreign faculty when they were not present which indicates that bank officials were also involved in the embezzlement. Therefore the case should be referred to a government agency such as the National Accountability Bureau (NAB).”

GCU Vice Chancellor Asghar Zaidi observed that the situation is an “embarrassment” for all those associated with the Government College University.

He said, “We will facilitate a full investigation into the matter. We will make sure all those directly and indirectly involved in the matter are dealt with. We will create a system of checks and balances to ensure that no such misappropriation occurs in the future.”