With 33bn backlog payment… Parliament assures Limkokwing of Govt commitment to pay

Members of the Oversight Committees on Finance and Education on Tuesday 10th March 2020 assured the Management of Limkokwing University of government’s commitment to pay the Le 32 billion backlog for April 2019 to date. This payment according to the Committee Members was in respect of over 1,000 students on scholarship at the Limkokwing University of Creativity and Technology. The engagement was among the Members of the two Committees, Officials from the Ministry of Technical and Higher Education, the Management of Limkokwing University and officials from the Ministry of Finance. The Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Technical and Higher Education-Gilbert Cooper and the Management of Limkokwing University made it to the meeting whiles officials from the Finance Ministry were absent. According to the Chairman of the Finance Committee, Honourable Amara Francis Kaisamba, the Committee is aware of the issue of payment of fees for student on scholarship between the Ministry of Technical and Higher Education and Limkokwing University, and as the people’s representatives they need to come on board to see how best they can handle the matter. He maintained Parliament need to take a critical look at the issue properly to see how they can resolve it to ensure the over 1,000 students who are currently benefiting from the project do not become dropouts as they are all Sierra Leoneans and that the courses they are offering are all vital towards nation building. The Chairman of the Committee on Education, Hon Alimamy O Kamara, said they are aware of the issues surrounding the agreement between the Government and Limkokwing University but they will address it as government is continuity but at the same time will not allow bad precedent to be repeated. Giving an update about payment to the Committees, the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Technical and Higher Education, Gilbert Cooper, said the University approached the Ministry in September 2018 about backlog payment, which was certified by team of Auditors that were sent by Government to verify. According to him, after several engagements the Ministry of Finance decided to come up with a payment plan and also requested for a 20 percent discount but only 10 percent was approved which left the backlog payment at Le 23billion. He disclosed that the payment plan was for 6-7 months, which started in 2018, and at present the Government have paid a total of Le 22bn remaining Le 1bn, which they were unable to honor due to the economic hardship as the debt was for the previous academic years. The Permanent Secretary disclosed that since 2019 to date, Government owe Limkokwing University the sum total of Le 33bn, which they have promised to pay for the continuing students once they complete some arrangement and paper work with the Ministry of Finance. He however, assured that government will only pay for continuing students as students who want to apply for the scholarship will only receive the same flat rate with other public university students, disclosing government is currently paying 70 percent of 53,000 students on scholarship nationwide at public Institutions. Cooper informed the Committee Members of Government’s moves to review the current Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) between the Government and Limkokwing for it to be in the best interest of the Government, adding that the review document is in Cabinet for discussion. The Senior Vice President on Campus Development at Limkokwing University, Gail Phung, disclosed the MOA with Government is based on Public Private Partnership with the government providing the building and certain amount of students per year. She disclosed that for them to turn the building in to a brand new University, they spent about $7000 (seven thousand United State dollars), with the aim to provide industry skills training, entrepreneurship training, generate real enterprises and promote youth employment. She disclosed they have a total of 1,471 students among which they have 1,045 degree and 74 diploma students on scholarship, with 267 degree and 78 diploma private students, adding a total of 320 diploma students have already completed their course since September 2019. The Chairman of the Finance Committee, Hon Kaisamba however assured the Limkokwing University Management of government commitment towards the payment of the backlog fees for the students who are doing very important courses in promoting middleman power. The Chairman of the Education Committee, Hon Alimamy O Kamara, pleaded with the University Management for them to allow the government students to complete their registration and continue with their classes while the government is discussing their payment plan through the Finance Ministry. Gail Phung assured the Committees that they too want to see students complete their courses and graduate on time, but however said they will consider the appeal as she will have to communicate the information to the Parent Body in Malaysia and will inform the Committee shortly on the outcome. The meeting was adjourned for officials from the Finance Ministry to explain their own side of the issue before the final conclusion of the issue as Parliament really want to see this issue come to end and see the students return to class.

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