Stipends Office plans to start requesting pay-slips of students working part-time

The University of Malta Stipends Office is planning to start requesting the monthly pay-slips of those students who receive a stipend and work a part time job, a report published by the National Audit Office (NAO) on Tuesday indicates.

The plans have been put forward after the NAO found no documentation whatsoever on whether UoM students in part-time employment but also receiving a maintenance grant were not working more than twenty hours per week as stipulated by law.

In its report on the Public Accounts for 2017, the NAO noted that 4 students out of a sample of 24 were working on a part-time basis, as indicated by their Jobsplus records, but no further documentation so as to indicate the amount of hours that the said students were working was found.

As a result the NAO recommended the “periodic vetting of monthly payslips and contracts of employment is to be carried out, to certify that students working on a part-time basis are not exceeding the stipulated threshold.”

In response to the recommendations, the Education Ministry indicated within the same report that;

The Students’ Maintenance Grants Office is to ensure better control and thus will start tagging applications of students who are in part-time employment and continue checking periodically on the number of hours being worked by requesting payslips to a number of randomly selected students on a monthly basis.

Upon entry into the University of Malta, all students sign a declaration that in receiving their stipends they will not work more than 20 hours a week.

The recommendation was one of various after the NAO found shortcomings especially in how the University handled foreign students studying and receiving stipends at the campus.

One such  that nine shortcoming is in how the NAO found 9 out of 24 sampled foreign students receiving student maintenance grants who had not submitted the necessary documentation to prove they “have resided in Malta for a period of not less than five consecutive years immediately prior to the commencement of the relative course of studies”, which is the stipulation required for them to be eligible for a grant.

Despite this, the NAO found, the applications for the grants were still confirmed and the grants paid out accordingly by the student’s maintenance grant board.

In general, the NAO found that “fragmented documentation” was a “common” and “major” concern amongst the University of Malta, the Students Maintenance Grant Board and the Exemptions Board who were forming the basis of this audit.  These resulted in “weak internal controls”, the NAO said.