The University Teachers Association of Ghana (UTAG) has given the government until the end of March 2016 to halt its policy of migrating staff payrolls of public universities onto a single salary payment platform.
It is also demanding that the government unfreezes the employment of lecturers and technical staff by public universities.
At a press conference in Accra Wednesday, UTAG said their demands, if not acceded to by the end of the given period, would result in members using all means available, including court action, to challenge the government’s policy, which the executives described as inimical to the independence and autonomy of public universities nation-wide.
Reading the statement of UTAG, the National President, Dr Harry L. K. Agbanu, flanked by other executives, said the government had written to managers of public universities giving them until the end of March for staff payroll to be migrated unto the Integrated Personnel Payroll Database 2 (IPPD2), and that if staff payrolls were not migrated at the stipulated, public universities were to forfeit their subventions.
He explained that the policy demanded that all funds received by the universities, including research grants from individual institutions and organisations, both local and abroad, to support research had to be paid into the government’s chest.
He said there was another directive for public universities not to employ or replace academic and technical staff, in spite of the dwindling staff numbers through retirement, incapacitation, resignation and death.
Dr Agbanu conceded that financial administration and the management of public institutions were under the control of governments in most countries.
However, he added, the peculiar nature and functions of universities as institutions of higher learning dictated that they had to be insulated from the direct control of the government, “as a strategic means of ensuring and preserving academic freedom and independence.”
Dr Agbanu said a petition by the Vice Chancellors of all public universities to the President of Ghana for them to be exempted from the migration had fallen on deaf ears.
He said in some negotiations that UTAG had had with the government, the association had suggested that the payrolls of universities should be interfaced with the government’s payroll for supervision but the suggestions had not been taken.
Dr Agbanu mentioned some of the challenges of the directive as delays in the release of funds for teaching, the inability of universities to diversify and teach new programmes and the unwillingness of external donors to support them with grants for programmes as they would not want their money to be controlled by the government.
“Universities are not supposed to generate funds to support government projects, but rather, it is the government’s responsibility to fund projects,” Dr Agbanu stressed when questioned about the relevance of the government’s policy.
The immediate past National President of UTAG, Dr Samuel Ofori Bekoe, said some of the actions that UTAG would take if the government did not unfreeze the employment of lecturers would be for a lecturer to teach only the number of students he or she could handle.