The Tribunal de Contas wants to know how 1.3 million have flown into the pockets of university executives for university education

The Court of Auditors would like to know why the heads of higher education institutions have received an estimated EUR 1.3 million in functional grants under the law over the past ten years.

In an examination published on Friday, the court admits that the cause of the problem lies in the legal system governing these payments and that despite all the changes that universities and polytechnic institutes have gone through, it has remained “intact” for 30 years, namely in relation to the appearance of new organic units, departments and delegations. “The maintenance of this legal framework has led to difficulties and deviations in the application of the law,” which is reflected in the alignment of the leadership positions of organic units (research, administration and others) with those of the teaching units with the allocation of supplements according to higher value or not legally provided “can be found in the report.

Despite the law, the fulfillment of positions was paid for, the existence of which is not even foreseen in this old three-decade regime. The Court of Auditors gives a few examples: “The position of Strategic Director was similar to that of Pro-Rector, and the addition of 28% of the base salary was allocated. The position of deputy chairman of the scientific council was equated with the position of deputy director of a secondary school and was awarded a bonus of 17% of the base salary. “In some cases, holders of managerial positions not foreseen in the educational institutions’ statutes (director, sub-director and responsible for research units, library, standing committee) received additional money.

There were administrative or support units equated with teaching units, and the salaries of their leaders increased by almost a third. The same practice was applied at the research unit level: “The position of deputy director of a research unit was equated with that of deputy director of a teaching unit and the supplement of 17% of the basic salary was assigned.”

It was the result of half a dozen irregular situations identified in the past, namely at the Polytechnic Institute of Santarém, the heads of which were obliged to repay 22,000 euros, which were paid to the director and deputy director of the research unit, as well as to the director of the post-secondary and professional unit – that this court decided to take an x-ray of all public higher education institutions reported for the period between 2009 and 2019. 1.3 million payments appear to have been made outside of the law, the investigation of which is now being further investigated to see if, as in the case of Santarém, a return is also required.

One thing is certain: following the results of this audit, some higher education institutions have stopped making these payments, although they have argued, as has the Open University, that they believe that their autonomy allows them to make them.

As a precaution, the Coimbra Polytechnic interrupted the allocation of functional allowances to the director of the Institute of Applied Research last February, at least until the problem was resolved, but draws attention to a possible violation of the constitutional principle of equality. This decision can be configured as “the Functions, responsibilities and requirements of the position correspond to those of the head of the teaching unit ”.

The rector of Aveiro University, Paulo Jorge Ferreira, is outraged: [das instituições de ensino superior] They must be punished for the ineffectiveness of governments. This becomes an obvious denial of the law. Not to mention the civil liability of the state due to the elimination of the legislative obligation.

The problem could have been solved as early as 2007 with the publication of the legal system for higher education institutions, which provided for the introduction by law of a new remuneration system for holders of government and administrative bodies of higher education institutions and their organic units. Only this diploma never saw the light of day.

Therefore, in its recommendations to the Minister of Science, Technology and Higher Education, the Court of Auditors speaks of the urgent need to publish the decree. “A revision of the legal system for remuneration supplements is already underway to address the deficiencies found in the audit,” the order replied to the judges last December.

The rectorate accuses the judges of rigidity

In response to the audit by the Court of Auditors, the President of the Rectorate of Portuguese Universities, António de Sousa Pereira, allegedly accused the judges of Rigidity of failing to recognize that a higher education institution is not all learning units, including research and some other skills. “It is incomprehensible that the court, which seeks a strict application of the rules that are inconsistent with the current terminology, claims that the concept of educational establishment covers only the teaching units and cannot be extended to the other organic units.” that exist in the universities and colleges criticizes the maximum representative of the rectors.

Under this interpretation of the law, sub-directors of laboratories, museums, libraries or institutes are not entitled to any additional payment for performing this function, as the law does not provide for this. However, the research units continue their teaching activities and underline the same responsibility, especially at the level of master’s and doctoral theses. “Their existence is really imperative for institutions to be able to award a doctorate,” he recalls.

For this reason, António de Sousa Pereira believes that it is unthinkable that the financial school principals who were forced to improvise in the face of a law that is inconsistent with reality (see main text) should be punished by the Court of Auditors – if they limited themselves to applying the government-approved statutes of higher financial education to which they belong. Finally, the President of the Rectorate leaves a proposal to the Minister of Education: When he finally issues new legislation on this subject, the regularization of the payment of these additional allowances will be ensured retrospectively in certain situations where the outdated law still justifies it.