Government rejects COMSATS’s new projects over allegations of mismanagement and misuse of funds
Government of Pakistan has rejected new projects from COMSATS Institute of Information Technology (CIIT) for the next fiscal year over allegations of massive irregularities, violation of hiring age limit and misuse of funds. Government has spent Rs. 8.2 billion on the development budget of the institute along with a recurring grant of Rs. 6.9 billion for the last 16 years. However, Government has not yet gained any value worth the expenditure especially in scientific innovation and research domain. A large sum of money has been spent on infrastructure and non-productive cultural tours or shows both in and out of the country.
CIIT has been established for over a decade now and considered 4th biggest institute in the country. The university has opened up campuses across the country enrolling more than 37,000 students. Surprisingly, it’s contribution towards IT research and export is yet to be seen, not to mention it has even failed to secure a rank among the top 500 universities globally.
Let us take a look into certain activities of the institute that has put its future in jeopardy.
- The institute re-hired over 55 aged faculty on heavy salaries, mostly based on personal relationships, which violate the retirement age of 60 from the government of Pakistan. Most of the re-hires are not even PhD holders. One of the top managers of the institute is 66 years of age who is enjoying his third extension during the past 16 years of his employment. Many of his relatives and ex-colleagues are employed at the university.
- A spokesperson of the institute did not deny this but justified it in a conversation with The News International saying that the only reason for re-hire was that they can mentor young and upcoming faculty in different matters. However, experts say that this responsibility is suitable for senior faculty and not for someone who has already passed his/her employment age.
- HEC does not accept a PhD degree without course work. Yet, the pro-Rector of the institute, Haroon Rasheed, has a PhD degree from Preston University based on his published research papers. Apparently, he was too busy in his job at CIIT that he just could not get done with his course work. Surprisingly, he is responsible for interviewing, hiring and promoting foreign and locally qualified PhDs and all other faculty and staff of the institute.
- The pro-Rector’s wife, Tahira Haroon, is a chairperson of CIIT mathematics department since 2003.
- Just this year, one of the renowned journal, Elsevier, retracted 16 research papers of a COMSAT professor, Khalid Zaman, on account of submitting fake peer reviews and their false contact information. The research papers were published in three Elsevier journals—Economic Modelling, Renewable Energy, and Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews
- The institute is running into Rs 1 Billion losses despite heavy government funding and annual revenue of billions from fee collection. According to sources, the minister of planning and development, Ahsan Iqbal, was not happy with the progress of the institute, however, he mentioned financial constraints as a public statement for withdrawing funding for COMSAT.
- The Board of Governers (BoG) look after all the major financial and hiring decisions, but the body is composed of 15 employees of CIIT working directly under the powerful Rector and only 6 government officials.
The spokesperson from the university answered all of the questions from The News International but denied all the allegations. The university was not able to provide any solid evidence for any kind of innovation that proved to be helpful for Pakistan’s growing IT industry except that around 45 of the total 50 projects has been completed.
You can read more about the spokesperson response here.