The Bursary department is a critical component of a University that requires a disciplined, transparent, accountable and financially creative individual to mange. It is to the University what advertisement is to the media house; live wire. This is because no institution, not just a University functions without a well organized bursary.
The head of the department referred to as a Bursar is a principal officer and a high ranking management staff. The Bursar has a core responsibility to manage the money of a school, college, or University to the interest of the institution.
The overall operations of student financial services, billing and receivables, and cashiering functions of the University/College according to salary.com are also duties of a Bursar.
It is worthy to note that while performing these duties, the Bursar must ensure total compliance with University, state, and federal regulations and standard accounting procedures.
Despite the seemingly huge authority over the management of a varsity finances, he/she is by law expected to work under strict supervision as it is mandated that he/she “must” submit cum report to the head of the institution (The Vice Chancellor in the case of university).
Basically, the explanations above are the core responsibilities of a varsity bursar. Anybody who however acts contrary to them becomes a good case study to aspiring Bursars on how not to be one.
Perhaps, there is nothing on earth that is completely bad or absolutely good. When something or somebody is bad or performed poorly in a given responsibility, rather than condemn the thing or person completely, such can become a reference point to guide people against being or performing like them.
More so, in contemporary times, when issues on how a University Bursar is not expected to act come up for discussion, Peter Agi, the former University of Calabar Bursar readily comes to mind. In fact, he is a manual on how not to be a Bursar.
This is so because his activities throughout his reign as the head of the Bursary department left little to be admired of him as he acted very contrary to the core responsibilities of a bursar as succinctly explained in the paragraphs above. (Refer to paragraph 1-5).
As stated earlier, the responsibility of a Bursar to manage the university finances is not to be done in such a way that it favors only the Bursar at the detriment of the institution. A Bursar is not expected to put his interest ahead of that of the varsity for any reason.
But regrettably, Agi throughout his reign failed to observe the golden principle of being submissive to superior authority or properly reporting to the head of the institution as stated clearly in his letter of appointment or projecting the University’s interest ahead of his personal interest. He abused his office as he unculturally and illegally performed some functions that were statutorily beyond his powers.
For instance, Agi on the 23rd of August 2016 unilaterally delisted the names of 152 staff of the university from the payroll without satisfactory explanation. The net pay of this people was about 24,688,319.50 (Twenty four million, six hundred and eighty eight thousand, three hundred and nineteen Naira, fifty Kobo).
While it is truism that a few of these people were either on retirement, dismissal or dead but majority of them were delisted in a fraudulent manner. In fact, it was done in an approach that can be best described as sheer wickedness on the side of the former bursar.
Agi did not only leave some departments short of manpower but rendered many hopeless, homeless and food-less. Their only source of livelihood was taken away because of the recklessness and arrogance of a single man. What a level of heartlessness!
While investigation is yet to reveal the reason behind his action, it was widely insinuated that the ex-Bursar removed the people because they were employed by the Vice Chancellor and secretly replaced them with his preferred candidates.
In a University setting, the power to hire and fire, rests on the shoulders of the Vice Chancellor and the Governing Council. Even Agi’s appointment letter as bursar was signed by the Vice Chancellor. So how Agi arrogated the powers to fire and hire to himself has left many pondering.
It is not yet clear what happened to the salaries of some of the people he was yet to replace before he was sacked.
Besides this, Agi took his desperation and overbearing attitude to the forum of Bursars in Nigeria. In different fora, Agi publicly tried to incite other Bursars to also demonstrate rebellious attitude towards their Vice Chancellors.
He attempted many times to deceive them that they were the chief accounting officers of their Universities as such had the absolute powers to manipulate the system anyhow. Perhaps, this explains why many Vice Chancellors are today very excited with the decision of the governing council to kick him out.
Whether Agi was qualified in the first place for the job is a discussion for another day. But salary.com specifies clearly that to be qualified for a job of a varsity or college Bursar, you must at least have garnered five years bursary experience.
Did Agi gather up to five years experience in bursary before his appointment? Did he act out of ignorance? Were his actions deliberate? Was he acting under any external influence? These and many more have been the puzzles of concerned stakeholders and Nigerians.
Some people may wonder whether delisting of staff from pay roll without recourse to constituted authority is worth being cited as anti-bursary attribute. It is because there is no offence as serious as denying people opportunity to get what legitimately belongs to them all in a bid to fight a perceived enemy or to enrich yourself. This is not an offence against the Vice Chancellor alone but an affront on the University community and betrayal of the affected families.
His regime was characterized with high level of financial recklessness that the University is still struggling today to recover. The 40% reduction in the February salary of staff is as a result of his inability to consult higher authority or experienced people before advancing. He reportedly forwarded a false record that misrepresented the staff capacity of the University and now the workers are suffering heavily for his ineptitude.
There are other major flaws of Agi like allegedly operating a secret school fees portal where he made up to N200 million he has not accounted for, conniving with the chairman of UNICAL secondary school to transfer over N27 million to unknown account and many others.
But generally, Agi was an icing on the cake of a bad finance manager. He is a perfect example of how a Bursar should not be.
Peter Inyali is a journalist and writes from Calabar, the Cross River State capital
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