The Divine Word University received its full amalgamation grants from the National Government after a mediation between the Ombudsman Commission, the DWU university Council and the Department of Higher Education Research Science and Technology.
The mediation was mainly to address a planned fee increase by the university and to find ways the university can explore to avoid passing the costs to the parents.
Chief Ombudsman Richard Pagen led the mediation.
The meeting resulted in two outcomes: the school fee hike was put on hold and allowed student to enroll at the previous years’ fees and through the Ombudsman Commission process, the Government paid the full Amalgamation Grants for the University of K24 Million for 2021 and 2022..
It was learnt during the meeting that apart from the rising cost of goods and services, one of the main contributing factor for the increase in fees is the government’s inability to honour in time its commitments to the DWU and other university in the form of HELP, HECAS and in the case of DWU; the Amalgamation fees.
The University said raising the fees was the only way to help meet its costs of operation as government assistance was not certain.
It was also revealed that in recent years the government started every school year paying off the outstanding grants for the previous year. However, sometimes those payments come later during the school year.
As per Section 218 of the Constitution the Commission must ensure that the Government is responsive to the needs and aspirations of the people and this was a case of the government failing its duty to address the needs of its constituents.
Thus the Ombudsman Commission made a request to the university to not implement the increase for 2022 while it would use its powers under Section 218 of the Constitution to write to the Treasurer to honour its commitments to the University and other universities as well before the school year started.
In good faith, the DWU decided to scrape its fee increase for 2022 honouring the request of the Commission and allowing the Ombudsman Commission to assist in speeding up the processing of the much-needed payments.
Since then the Government has paid the full outstanding amalgamation grants of K24 million for 2021 and 2022 to DWU and has saved parents thousands of kina they would have paid.
The DWU has written to the Commission to express its gratitude for its assistance in ensuring commitments made by the government to the universities were met in time and hopes the assistance continues into the future.
The Ombudsman Commission also hopes that the National Government would continue to honour its commitments to the universities every year and ensure that all outstanding payments are done before every school year starts to avoid increases in school fees which can affect our students’ education.