Hey there, big spender!

15

MASERU — When it comes to spending university funds the vice-chancellor is an extremely extravagant fellow.
That is how an internal audit summed up the spending sprees, unauthorised trips, questionable per diem claims and unauthorised payments that the National University of Lesotho (NUL) vice chancellor, Professor Adelani Ogunrinade, made when he was appointed in December 2006 until he was suspended last August.
In total these trips and payments came close to M500 000.
In that time he made 14 foreign trips that had not been approved and claimed nearly M150 000 in per diems for the extra days that he spent on the trips.
He made NUL pay nearly M120 000 for trips that the report says had nothing to do with the university.
The report alleges that on one trip Ogunrinade didn’t even reach the destination he had said he would reach when he claimed the per diem.
It further alleges that he made NUL pay for a questionable trip to Nigeria, his home country. 
Ogunrinade has been on suspension for the past four months but he still enjoys full pay and benefits from the cash-strapped university.
Yet while Ogunrinade has been away the university’s chief internal auditor, Sebehela Selepe, has been digging deep into his activities before the suspension.
The result of his investigations is a potentially explosive audit report released on November 17 detailing how the vice-chancellor allegedly pampered himself with per diems for extra days he stayed on unauthorised trips.
The Lesotho Times has a copy of the report.
Also in the “confidential” report compiled over the past four months are stunning revelations of how Ogunrinade paid himself thousands of maloti for tasks that his salary as vice-chancellor should have covered.
It also tells how he skimmed thousands of maloti from donor funds meant for university projects.
It also details how the Nigerian made NUL pay for goods that he bought for his personal use at his home.
According to the report, Ogunrinade’s globe-trotting started when he allegedly made an unauthorised trip to Swaziland for the official opening of the inter-varsity games on February 26, 2007.
During that trip, Ogunrinade stayed over in Johannesburg, South Africa, for three days before proceedings to the games.
For the two days he spent in Swaziland, and the three he did in South Africa, he claimed       M6 779 as per diem from NUL.
The report says because of those three days he spent in Johannesburg, Ogunrinade’s per diem was overpaid by M5 932 and that constituted “unauthorised absence from office”. 
But even after getting that per diem, the report says, Ogunrinade proceeded to make further claims for things he has bought allegedly for personal use in Johannesburg. 
For instance, the report alleged, the vice-chancellor claimed M909 from NUL for money he had spent at a leading wholesaler as well as a clothes shop.  
The report says that barely a month later, Ogunrinade made another unauthorised trip to the University of Pretoria for the inauguration of a chancellor.
This time he claimed and received M5 122.
Of that amount, M3 414 was meant to cover the extra two days that he overstayed in South Africa after the event.
Ogunrinade’s biggest expenditure, according to the financial investigation, came on yet another unauthorised trip that he made to the United Kingdom on March 30, three days after he had come from the Pretoria trip.
That trip, which Ogunrinade claimed to be a “fundraising drive to some institutions in the UK”, cost NUL a massive M60 321. Although the trip was not authorised, Ogunrinade is alleged to have asked the university — an institution funded by taxpayers’ money — to pay M39 000 for his business class air ticket.
For the 11 days that he stayed in the UK the university paid him a per diem of M21 321. 
It is not mentioned if he managed to persuade the “institutions” to financially assist NUL.
Barely two months later (on June 21), Ogunrinade made another trip to the UK but this time he claimed he was going to make a stop-over in Dublin, Ireland, where he said he wanted to visit the University of Limerick.
NUL gave him a per diem of M36 159.
The report however alleges that although this trip was authorised by the University Registrar it appeared that Ogunrinade had made some false claims about his destination.
It says Ogunrinade did not even visit some of the places he had said he would visit.
It further alleges that he did not even meet some of the people he had said he would meet on the trip.
When the vice-chancellor wrote an e-mail to the acting bursar, he said he was going to meet the Lesotho Ambassador to Ireland and visit the University of Limerick in Dublin.
But when the chief auditor cross-checked those details during his investigations he discovered them to be false.
For instance, when he called Ambassador Mannete Ramaili to check if she had met the vice-chancellor he was told that Ogunrinade “did not arrive at the Lesotho Embassy in Ireland and he did not contact them if he ever went to Ireland on those dates”.                       
When the chief auditor checked with the authorities at Limerick he was told that Ogunrinade had never set foot at the university on the days that he claimed to have visited it.
A professor, Tom Lodge, wrote to the chief auditor saying: “I do remember discussing with him a date for his visit and it was in June 2007. As things turned out he was unable to travel to Limerick and we did not meet.”
The report says it is clear that the vice-chancellor only went to London, UK, but it is not clear where he was on the other days that he had allocated for his trip to Ireland in his e-mail to the acting bursar.
Still Ogunrinade pocketed an M27 610 per diem allowance for those days, the report says.
Three months later the vice-chancellor flew back to the UK again for a conference.
On that trip, the report alleges, Ogunrinade over-stayed in the UK by three days costing NUL M2 580 in per diem allowances for him.
Less than a month later, he went again to Swaziland but he took the opportunity to spend a day in Johannesburg at the expense of the university which paid him M2 207.
A month later in November, Ogunrinade was on a plane again, this time headed for Botswana but again he stayed over in Johannesburg making NUL pick a M2 067 tab.
When he over-stayed on a January 29, 2008 trip to Zambia’s Copperbelt University, NUL gave him M4 531 for the extra days.  
Even then, the report says the cost of this trip should have been borne by the Copperbelt University because he is a member of its council.
When Ogunrinade went to Pretoria in March to organise his UK visa, he made the university pay him a per diem of M8 244. The report adds that this trip should not have been made at NUL’s expense.
On March 14, the vice-chancellor wrote an e-mail to the acting bursar requesting a per diem for a trip he was making to Nigeria, his home country.
“I shall be on mission with the Ministry of Health & Social Welfare as from 18-27th March 2008. I shall be pleased if you can issue quarter per diem for the period,” he wrote. 
For those days he got M6 643 as per diem allowance but the report says he should not have been paid because the government of Lesotho had covered all the costs through the health ministry. 
The chief auditor said when he investigated he discovered that the ministry had actually paid Ogunrinade a per diem yet he had requested an allowance from NUL. 
On June 14, Ogunrinade made another unauthorised trip, this time to Ethiopia.
The total cost to NUL for that trip was M25 946.
Of that amount M17 810 was for the air ticket while the remainder was for his per diem.
The chief auditor said he found it curious that the ticket money had been paid to Ogunrinade in cash.
Although Ogunrinade had said he was attending a conference in Ethiopia, the auditor said there was something suspicious about the trip.
“This trip is suspicious and should be made personal,” he said in the report.
The report also alleges that apart from making unauthorised foreign trips and claiming extra per diems Ogunrinade also benefited immensely from money provided by donors to NUL for scholarly programmes.
In August 2007 the Embassy of Ireland in Lesotho provided M195 580 to NUL for a students’ governance and training programme.
The money was supposed to be used to help student leaders develop qualities, skills and vision for leadership.
The targets were the student leaders and Ogunrinade signed the agreement on behalf of the university. 
Two workshops were held at ‘Melesi Lodge at Thaba-Bosiu on November 10 and 17.
NUL received a further M236 540 when the programme was extended.
The auditor however said there was a scandal here too because the money was not used for its intended purposes.
It said the vice-chancellor paid himself M20 000 from the fund for what he called “monitoring and evaluation” of the programme.
He said the biggest portion of the grant was used to pay the participants and presenters.
Two presenters were paid M15 000 each while another was given M10 000. They all presented a paper each.
The chief auditor said Ogunrinade had a habit of paying himself extra money for basic chores that he was supposed to have performed in his capacity as vice-chancellor.
For instance, the report alleges, when the university was interviewing candidates for the position of registrar, Ogunrinade claimed M3 000 for being part of the selection panel.
“That was his job and he should not have claimed anything for doing it,” the report said.
When the university called him for his own pre-suspension hearing Ogunrinade charged M800 for attending it.
And when he was part of a disciplinary committee in a senior employee’s hearing, Ogunrinade charged NUL M4 800.
The report also blasts the vice-chancellor for incurring huge phone bills while on suspension.
In August the university paid M23 634 for his phone bill.
In September his bill was M20 318.
These allegations are in addition to numerous others that centred on a house he paid himself a M100 000 honorarium from the grant that had been provided to NUL by WK Kellogg Foundation for capacity building.
So bad was the mismanagement of the US$800 000 grant that the WK Kellogg Foundation decided to pull the plug on the project.
When contacted for comment yesterday, Ogunrinade said he could not comment on the report as he had not seen it. 
When the Lesotho Times offered to give him a copy for perusal so he could comment, Ogunrinade said “that is not the way to get the report”.
“I might be accused of getting the report in an underhand manner,” he said.
“All I can say now is that I cannot comment because the report has not been given to me. I have been available but no one had asked me about per diems, trips or any payment.”
Later he called the Lesotho Times offices and said he believed that the chief auditor Selepe who wrote the report had an axe to grind with him.
He said some time ago he had charged Selepe for losing a laptop that he had been allocated for operations at the university.
“When I charged him he wrote a letter threatening me,” Ogunrinade said.
“He said if I proceeded with the charges I would be committing suicide. I think this is where this report is coming from.”
He said Selepe had lost the laptop in “suspicious circumstances” and he made him to pay for it. 
Selepe however denied that he threatened Ogunrinade.
“When I said he would regret I was not threatening revenge against him,” Selepe said.
“I was just warning him that if he would not support me the entire management would be in trouble because it seemed there were some people who wanted to steal documents from my office.”
“The documents were important because they contained information that would make some people face serious charges of funds mismanagement.”
“I believe that the laptop was stolen by someone who wanted to destroy evidence of how he misused the university funds and I sought the VC’s support to prevent such things.”
“If the VC thought by saying he would regret I was threatening him, he has misunderstood me.”

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