Probe reveals college corruption

2010-11-15 00:00

IRREGULAR, fruitless and wasteful expenditure — these are the findings of an investigation into allegations of financial mismanagement at the ­uMgungundlovu Further Education and Training (UFET) College.

The report of the forensic probe recommends that disciplinary action be taken against Sipho Khuzwayo, the UFET’s suspended rector, who has been fingered for alleged corruption, and that steps be taken against him to ensure the recovery of the money in question.

The Witness is in possession of a report submitted to the Education MEC, Senzo Mchunu, who called for an investigation after the South African Democratic Teachers’ Union levelled allegations of financial impropriety against certain senior officials in the department last year.

Mchunu initially assigned a team of forensic auditors to investigate the validity of the allegations and whether a forensic investigation was called for. He later invited members of the public to comment on matters of corruption in all spheres of education. It was through those submissions that allegations of unscrupulous dealings at the UFET College surfaced.

According to the report, the dealings involved the purchase of specialised equipment for the Plessislaer campus.

The Witness understands that the government injected millions of rands into FET colleges around the country for what it called a recapitalisation project.

The purpose of this initiative was to improve the country’s skills base, and to ensure that training facilities in the country were relevant and in line with national skills development standards.

UFET received R3 million for recapitalisation, paid by the KZN Department of Education. Part of this amount was earmarked for essential equipment, the subject of the investigation, at the Plessislaer campus.

The allegations are that procurement procedures were not followed. Khuzwayo is accused of going against the decision of the planning committee by bringing in a black economic empowerment (BEE) supplier who was not part of the tender process.

The report claims this resulted in the delivery of equipment that was of inferior quality and not in line with specifications — the machinery was in fact overpriced.

One example is the delivery of an air compressor that was worth R4 486. The college was charged R112 560 for it.

In some cases, the equipment was not even delivered, although it had been invoiced, the report stated.

The report further revealed that Khuzwayo approved an advance payment of R300 000 to the service provider before he had even delivered the goods. It is alleged that Khuzwayo worked with the college’s finance manager, who apparently recommended the supplier to Khuzwayo.

The pair allegedly authorised a final payment of R272 586 to the supplier, despite complaints by workshop managers about non-delivery of a machine worth R67 106 and the delivery of items that could not be used.

The report claims an employee was tasked with inviting quotes from identified specialised suppliers. The planning committee had decided that only suppliers from Pietermaritzburg would be used. However, this would exclude BEE suppliers.

The panel felt that only specialist companies would be able to deliver on the requirements since they already had the equipment on the floor and could guarantee future servicing of the machines and warranties, all of which was essential.

Since three local companies were thought to best fit this profile, the tender was divided equally amongst the trio.

However, when Khuzwayo was notified out of courtesy by a planning committee member about the progress of the tender process, he allegedly questioned why BEE suppliers had not been invited to quote.

Although the reasons were given to Khuzwayo, he nevertheless was allegedly advised about a suitable BEE supplier by the college’s finance manager.

The manager had sat on the bid evaluation committee when the issue of BEE representation was discussed. Khuzwayo allegedly invited a quotation from the supplier, who had been called to his office. The supplier allegedly also received a detailed spreadsheet of the other suppliers’ quotations.

The BEE supplier allegedly approached one of the companies, insisting on cheaper machinery, even though he had been advised against this by the big supplier, the report claims.

 

Education spokesperson, Mbali Thusi, said Khuzwayo’s hearing will resume later this month. He remains on suspension until then, she said. Khuzwayo was invited to comment. He reiterated the fact that he was receiving advice from a labour expert. He asked The Witness to wait until after the hearing for comment.

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