OC calls on government to release outstanding funds for tertiary institutions before school year commences

The Ombudsman Commission is calling on the government to honour all outstanding commitments to all universities before the school year starts and ease the burden of higher school fees.

Chief Ombudsman Richard Pagen said this after a meeting with the council members of one of the universities and the Department of Higher Education Research Science and Technology (DHERST) Acting Secretary Dr Francis Hualupmomi to sort out the issue of rising school fees which has been brought to the attention of the Commission by a concerned parent.

The Ombudsman Commission are mandated under Section 218 of the Constitution to ensure that Government Bodies are responsive to the needs and aspirations of the people; to ensure services are delivered and unfair practices are eliminated.

The Chief Ombudsman said from the discussion it was apparent that the delay in appropriation of allocated funds to the universities was a major contributor to the increase in fees this year.

He also gave his opinion on the Government’s free education policy as not being fair to tertiary students.

Mr Pagen said he is of the view that tertiary students should be the priority in any school fee subsidy system as they are the ones who pay higher fees and have the best chance to join the work force soon.

DHERST confirmed that millions of kina have not yet been appropriated from the allocated funds for the universities and thus the department cannot allocate the required funds on time to the universities.

Acting Secretary Hualupmomi said that every year they begin by paying off the shortfalls of the previous years and from whatever funds they are left with, they allocate to the universities and other tertiary institutions.  These funds appropriated in various forms including accreditation and governance and their ongoing scholarship programs such as TESAS and student loan programme called Help.

Mr Pagen said that he would be calling on the Treasury Minister to prioritise the universities and pay their outstanding funds for 2021 before the school year starts.

He said the Commission understands that universities have valid reasons for any increase in their fees and that includes the rising cost of goods and services and the need to hire quality staff for their accredited programs however, if part of the reason was because of the government’s delay in funding then the Commission has to step in to ensure the government component is given in full.

He said with the government agencies like the University of Papua New Guinea, PNG University of Technology, University of Natural Resources, and University of Goroka the Ombudsman Commission has the oversight over them but for private institution like the Divine Word and Pacific Adventist University, the Commission is calling on them to see the plight of the parents in PNG and be mindful of the burden they transfer to the parents.

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