Sunday, April 21, 2024
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University comes under royal scrutiny

Financial matters, overdue student allowances and other issues were highlighted by His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Sa’adul Khairi Waddien, Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam in his titah during the monarch’s unscheduled visit to Religious Teachers University College of Seri Begawan (KUPU SB) yesterday.

His Majesty noted that some issues highlighted during a visit to the university in 2020 had been rectified but new ones have cropped up since, particularly poor financial management and governance.

“KUPU SB has undeniably trained a great number of religious teachers but to keep to the institution’s mission and vision, there must be better structure and governance,” His Majesty said, while stressing KUPU SB management to uphold noble values and religious laws in all administrative matters as an Islamic-based institution, and cautioning the university against deceitful acts, even matters as small as a stolen mobile phone.

His Majesty said auditing issues have been brought to his attention, an area that should not be taken lightly because of their impacts on quality, trust and transparency.

The monarch also touched on the selection process for contractors to upkeep and renovate the university premises.

His Majesty questioned the use of the same companies repeatedly despite higher charges compared to their competitors or compared to similar projects initiated by ministries.

“This begs the question of whether the KUPU SB management should be investigated, particularly if the services provided are subpar or the appointed contractors do not have relevant expertise and qualifications,” said the monarch.

His Majesty delivers a titah. PHOTO: RAFI ROSLI
ABOVE & BELOW: His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Sa’adul Khairi Waddien, Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam tours Religious Teachers University College of Seri Begawan (KUPU SB). PHOTO: RAFI ROSLI
PHOTO: RAFI ROSLI
His Majesty during the unscheduled visit to KUPU SB. PHOTO: RAFI ROSLI

His Majesty also questioned the integrity of officers and staff involved, adding that personnel handling financial matters and tendering process must be well-versed with the regulations.

The monarch also raised the issue of companies being asked to offer services or products as sedekah or waqaf which His Majesty said can be seen as extortion with elements of corruption.

The monarch called for an end to the practise as it harms the institution as well as His Majesty’s Government and warned that action would be taken if it persists.

His Majesty said even small matters, such as purchasing office supplies, must follow certain rules, such as relevancy and usefulness.

The monarch said purchases or loans of office supplies should be recorded for easier tracking as there have been reports of purchased items being untraceable. “This,” His Majesty said, “raises doubt on the actual purchase and storage procedures.”

The monarch also highlighted issues surrounding scholarships, including the exemption of tuition fees for international students. His Majesty said there are reports of weekly discussions of scholarships which have not been approved by the KUPU SB Council. Such disorganisation has led to outstanding tuition fees to the tune of over half a million dollars.

The monarch said the awarding of scholarships must be done with screening from enforcement agencies as a matter of national security.

His Majesty noted KUPU SB’s plan for a centralised system to manage students’ activities and asked if there is any progress update.

The monarch also queried the university over rumours of students suffering from heavy workloads, prompting them to consider stopping their studies. There were also reports of student allowances in arrears for several months.

His Majesty questioned the reason behind the issues and if international students were affected too. The monarch also asked if there were considerations for underprivileged students.

His Majesty also instructed the KUPU SB management to ensure sound governance and financial management, adding that integrity, work ethics and morals should not be taken lightly as they are important in ensuring honesty, responsibility, dedication and professionalism without room for heinous acts such as theft, corruption, misappropriation and misuse of power. – Lyna Mohamad

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