Mr. Adetayo Hassan, a Chartered Accountant, is the Lagos State University’s Bursar. In an interview with The Intellectual, he speaks on the various financial reforms being put in place to ensure transparency and fiscal discipline.
In the university system, the Bursar occupies a very strategic role. He or she manages the institution’s funds and ensuring that financial rules are followed. How would you describe your experience so far in LASU?
The experience has been a traumatic one, in the sense that, I assumed leadership of the Bursary on the 6th of May last year, and barely three months after, that the school fee was drastically reduced to N25,000, from between N183,750 and N308,750. The implication of that was that, the funds which, ordinarily, we should have got as school fees were was reduced by almost 70 to 80 per cent. That then means there must be fiscal discipline. We have to manage what we have, to get to where to want.
What about the Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) of the university. Is it something that could assist LASU substantially?
No. Based on what I said, the IGR plummeted from about N1.7 billion projected for in 2014 to less than N800 million.
How would you describe the Lagos state government’s funding of the university at this point? Does the university get enough money to do all the things it needs to do?
You can never get enough money to do all what needs to be done. But definitely, the state government is doing its best. You can see all the structures that are emerging. We have legacy projects such as the senate building, the new library, the two in one law lecture hall, the students’ arcade, all being financed by the state government. Even the Faculty of Science that we are about completing, it was from a one billion naira grant given to us by the state government around 2009 that is being utilized for that project.
We also discovered that some people in the university like to perpetuate fraud by trying to look for loopholes. What measures are you taking to block these loopholes to ensure transparency and accountability?
What we have done, basically, is to look at areas where fraud can be perpetuated. Number one is in the area of school fees collection and what have we done? We are now doing e-payment. Students pay directly online. You use your debit card to pay. You cannot pay through a bank teller, so there is no interference. Once you follow that process, the money would be credited to our account. And we don’t need to issue receipts. We don’t print receipt again. This is applicable to all our students, either undergraduate, postgraduate including even the part time students under the external system. Anything that has to do with school fees now is done online. That in a way has more or less reduced fraud.
On payment itself too, it’s being done online. In other words, if we want to pay anyone for work done for us, we get that person or company’s account details and pay directly (online) into the account. And one beautiful thing about that is that, if you give me a wrong account number, the bank would not be able to transfer to that account. So, you can see that the issue of fraud does not arise.
What about bursary staff?
Even in the past, it would have been difficult for bursary staff to engage in fraud because you know that people are watching you. You may do it in connivance with others, but definitely you will not come out. Eight per cent of the ring leaders that have been caught in the past, there were not bursary staff, they were from other places. The bursary staff may give them an idea of what to do, but they won’t come out to do such things due to fear.
On Salary Payment
We pay our salaries in one day. Once we send the schedule to the bank, everyone would get an alert, so its e-payment for everybody. We have been doing this since July 2013.
Since your assumption of duty, sir, have you introduced any reform to improve the bursary department?
Basically, the first major change I made when I came was that, I found out that some staff members had spent so many years in this department, some between eight and 10 years, and the idea is for you to move on. So I put the square pegs in square holes.
We looked at people’s capabilities, put them in the right places and ensured that nobody stayed too long in a place. That was the first thing I did. The second thing was leadership by example. If you want to inculcate certain qualities into people, you as the leader must initiate action. You come to work very early, close late. Punctuality at work is also very important.
Then, since I like doing things myself, I am not the kind of Bursar that would just sit down and say, go and do this and that. I will give you the best, show you what I want you to do and how I want you to do it. I also have very competent staff that can actualize all these vision. We have at least 15 Chartered Accountants and any of them is capable of heading the Bursary.
After your term as Bursar, what would you like to be remembered for?
I have just about two and half years to my retirement, so that means I should be able to build and imbibe in my staff, ideals that would stand out. One thing I have been able to do and which still stands me out is the issue of reconciliation. That was the major thing that even brought me to LASU in the first instance in 2004. Reconciliation was not being done as at when due. Even those who were doing it, they didn’t understand the basics and why they should do it. That has been incorporated into the draft. I have trained so many staff and even with that, I still get involved. One of them came to me recently and said they had finished their reconciliation and wanted me to redo it and I said I am more than willing to redo.
There was another thing I was able to do in the External System. I was a Chief Accountant for the External System for about three years and hitherto, the technical partners believed they can ask for money anyhow. I was able to put in place, a sort of system that, at the end of every academic session, we were able to ensure transparency; they were able to see how much that came in and how much was due to them.
Now, having done that successfully for several years, once we tell them (technical partners) that this is what is due to you, they don’t bother coming back again, because some of them tried three to four times to challenge me. But I told them I was not here to short change anybody. Whatever belongs to you, you will get.
I think that feat would stand me out. Of course, there are so many other things I have been able to do, but those two are the major ones, then leadership by example. I am not an arm chair boss, who would sit down and give instructions. I want to partake in doing it.
What would you consider as LASU’s major challenge
The problem of LASU has to do with people having the feeling that, once you are under the aegis of a union, you can always hide under unionism and whatever you are able to do, you can get away with it.
I had a meeting with my staff some time ago, and I told them that the number one reason that brought them here (LASU) is work, so they must recognize that. Unionism is a fallout of being a staff, and the day you cease to be a staff, that day, you cease to be a union member. So basically, there may be instances where the management may feel shortchanged, but then, you don’t take laws into your hand and believe that the best thing is for you to undermine the management and your boss.
The first thing you need to do is to discuss your issue with your boss and if any other thing comes in, who is going to assess you for promotion? Whatever you long to become, who is going to make it possible? It’s still your boss. If already, you have conflict with him (your boss) and you are taking your boss to the union and whatever, at the end of the day, you are the one that would lose, because you cannot tell anybody to promote anyone who doesn’t qualify. No matter how active you are as a union member, if you don’t merit promotion, they won’t give it to you.
Dream for LASU
My dream is to see a LASU where peace will reign continuously, like we have seen in the past three to four months, where academic activities would go on uninterrupted. A university where students can conveniently predict, at their point of entry, when they will graduate, just like it is being done at the University of Ilorin in the past 15 years.