2 TETFund: Imperatives for efficiency-driven reforms
By Uche Anunne News Agency of Nigeria
Appropriate funding of tertiary education remains a major challenge for many countries, particularly developing ones.
3 In addition to personnel emoluments and building of infrastructure, the university system requires enormous financial resources to meet its research funding demands and contribute more to more meaning socio-economic growth of nations.
4 To address this challenge, and following an agreement with university lecturers on adequate funding of universities, the Federal Government in 1993 established the Education Tax Fund (ETF) through the Education Tax Decree No. 7 of 1993 (Act) as an intervention agency.
5 The Act stipulates that two per cent tax shall be charged on assessable profit of a companies registered in Nigeria as may be ascertained in the manner specified in the Companies and Income Tax Act of the Petroleum Profits Act. It also gives the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) the mandate to assess and collect the tax from the companies.
6 In 2011 through Act No. 18 ETF morphed into Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund) with its responsibilities refocused to intervene only in public tertiary institutions, namely universities, polytechnics and colleges of education.
7 But, in spite the change in nomenclature and scope of intervention, the core responsibilities remain to provide the much-needed funding support for tertiary education as well as award of scholarships, research grants with a view to improving the quality of research outcomes by Nigerian scholars.
8 As TETFund’s responsibilities become more complex in the face of expanding demands for its resources vis-à-vis finances that are not growing in the same geometric progression, some stakeholders argue that it has become important for reforms in the intervention agency to enable it maximize its capital for optimum impact on Nigeria’s tertiary education system.
9 One of the major areas that require urgent reform is the management of the Fund. As presently constituted, the TETFund Board of Trustees is made of mainly politicians appointed from the six geo-political zones by the Federal Government.
10 This is in addition to the Executive Secretary of the Fund,
Also on the board are political appointees who head different parastatals under the Federal Ministry of Education; namely the National Universities Commission (NUC), the National Board for Technical Education (NBTE), National Commission for Colleges of Education (NCCE) and nominees by the Federal Ministry of Finance; and Education.
11 As presently constituted, observers say it would be difficult for the intervention agency to function effectively without politicians’ interference.
12 They also argue that its present Board is also a radical departure from the 1992 ASUU-FG agreement on the funding of universities which gave birth to the Fund. The agreement provided that, having suggested the establishment of the Fund, ASUU should be involved in its management.
13 In a report published in the October 7, 2019 edition of Premium Times, the Nigerian Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) posited that there was unnecessary political control and interference by state governors in the execution of the TETFund-funded projects in their respective states.
15 He said it was not in the interest of the education system for politicians to dominate the membership of the board, saying in most instances, politicians’ interest are paramount in their actions.
16 Tukur, a lecturer in the department of Public Administration, Nasarawa State University, Keffi said even when geo-political zones are involved in constituting the board, it is imperative that such nominees should be seasoned academics so that they can bring their academic experience to bear in the running of the agency.
18 The scholar said while the building of infrastructure by TETfund is a welcome development, the agency should focus its interventions more on research and training.
19 He said award of research grants should prioritise proposals that add value to the nation’s quest for academic excellence and invention, adding that where projects are awards, they should be audited based on their impact on the society.
20 Dr Edet Imuk of the University of Calabar, shares similar opinion with Tukur, saying structural reforms were needed to restore stakeholders’ confidence and stimulate enhanced performance by the Fund.
The Executive Secretary, Tertiary Education Trust Fund, Mr Sonny Echono was recently quoted by a report as admitting the need for reforms in the organisation, saying it was the need to weed out inhibitions to transparency in TETfund’s operations.
21 He said there is the possibility of the reform being opposed in some quarters it has become a necessary step to take if the agency will deliver on its mandates.
22 “The respective institutions do the design and costing of projects.
23 So also is the supervision and management.
The TETFund only monitors milestones attainments ahead of releases in tranches,” he said giving an insight into the direction of the forms.
As the need for repositioning the organisation becomes increasingly imperative, stakeholders say such reforms will be incomplete without streamlining the process of applying for research grants, scholarships and contracts in a manner that will reduce physical contacts between applicants and TETfund managers to avoid bias evaluation and eventual award of the grants and contracts.