Late membership dues hamper regional university body
The council received the second highest allocation in the 2019-20 budget from the EAC – US$9.5 million – after the Lake Victoria Basin Commission which received US$13.1 million.
Overall, the EAC has been having problems financing its operations, mainly due to delayed contributions, a situation that has also affected its organs and institutions.
As of June 2018, member countries cumulatively owed the regional higher education body up to US$17 million, according to media reports.
Daily operations unaffected
Despite being owed millions – Burundi has the largest debt at over US$5 million, while Kenya owes the least at US$4,000 – the IUCEA says that its daily operations remained largely unaffected, but reckons that implementation of its strategic operations have been hampered by delayed remittances. Newer members of the economic bloc, Burundi and South Sudan, both failed to pay their fees last year.
On the other hand, older founder members led by Kenya have shown the greater efforts in meeting their financial commitments.
“We cannot execute our mandate as fully as we have planned; budget constraints mean we have to scale down activities now and again,” said Mike Kuria, IUCEA deputy executive secretary.
“Our daily operations however remain largely unaffected, mainly because we are usually able to borrow from arrears as we wait for partner states’ contributions,” he said. Arrears are monies paid to offset arrears incurred in the past. If a country fails to pay this year, that balance becomes arrears next year, he said.
According to Kuria, institutions of the EAC receive money directly from member states or from the EAC (after payment by the states) depending on the act of parliament that established them.
In the case of the IUCEA, it receives money from states directly via ‘line’ ministries, but all budgets are approved by the EAC Council of Ministers and are later discussed and passed by the regional legislative arm of EAC, the East African Legislative Assembly.
“Inevitably with this kind of accumulation of arrears, it means we are not able to implement our strategic plan as we would want to. We are forced to prioritise and re-strategise continuously,” Kuria told University World News.
The IUCEA was financing a number of its ongoing programmes via donor funding, thanks to powers granted to it allowing it to enter into financial agreements with external partners.
“As we are established by an Act of the East African Legislative Assembly, we are authorised to enter into agreements with donors and so we are able to mobilise resources from outside,” Kuria said.
While partner states in recent years have been contributing less than 50% of what is expected, the budget for donor-funded projects actually went up, ensuring that implementation went on uninterrupted.
Some of the donor-funded projects include the World Bank-supported African Centres of Excellence project, and the EAC scholarship programme funded by the German Development Bank, which will offer masters sponsorships in science, technology and engineering and mathematics.
“We are also in partnerships with organisations such as the African Population and Health Research Centre, the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) and others to try to mobilise funds in support of our strategic objectives.”
Kuria said IUCEA was optimistic that allocations would eventually be paid since the contributions were legal obligations on the part of the countries.
“Once country contributions have been decided at the EAC level the same cannot be waived, leaving countries with no option but to work hard and clear their arrears,” he said.
“We have seen some countries work really hard to reduce their arrears and Kenya is a good example. Tanzania and Uganda have also been making good efforts towards reduction of their arrears,” he said.
Last year Kenya and Uganda paid 100% of their contributions, an indication that there was goodwill from most of the partner countries, he said.