Central University of Technology faces maladministration probe

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Higher Education, Science and Innovation Minister Blade Nzimande is set to appoint an independent assessor to look into the issues at the Central University of Technology in Bloemfontein. Photo GCIS
Higher Education, Science and Innovation Minister Blade Nzimande is set to appoint an independent assessor to look into the issues at the Central University of Technology in Bloemfontein. Photo GCIS

NEWS


The embattled Central University of Technology (CUT) in Bloemfontein in the Free State is being investigated after allegations of maladministration surfaced at the institution.

City Press has learnt that Higher Education, Science and Innovation Minister Blade Nzimande intends to appoint an independent assessor to conduct the investigation.

The CUT has made headlines recently following controversial decisions relating to mismanagement and the hiring of seemingly unqualified staff.

READ: University council chair has no degree 

Nzimande, in a letter dated May 12, which City Press has seen, said he was very concerned about the developments at the CUT.

This, he said, stemmed from the events of November 2020, which could constitute circumstances that seriously undermine the effective functioning of the university.

The events Nzimande referred to included the suspension of the CUT’s then vice-chancellor Professor Henk de Jager following allegations relating to procurement processes.

The CUT council entered into a mutual separation agreement with De Jager, which led to his departure last year.

“As you may be aware, the university suffered serious reputational damage as a result. I do acknowledge that much has taken place since that time, including the appointment of Dr Sally Dzingwa as the new institutional registrar, the mutual separation agreement with De Jager and your election of Dr Charity Nkuli Mbileni-Morema as deputy chairperson of the council.

However, I strongly believe that an independent assessment is still necessary to establish if there was a breach of fiduciary duty on the part of the council in the events that transpired at the university.

Nzimande has given CUT chairperson Matthew Rantso’s council 21 days to respond.

CUT spokesperson Daniel Maritz had not responded to questions by the time of publishing, despite them being sent to him early on Wednesday. He acknowledged the receipt of questions.

This is a developing story. 

Myriad allegations

Nzimande said he had expressed concern about the council’s decision to pay for the accommodation of students who were members of the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (Nsfas) in December 2020 and in January last year from the university’s savings.

This approach, he said, was not adopted by other universities, which, according to him, negotiated with landlords, among other options.

“I have also been approached by the office of the Public Protector, which has received complaints against the university. Among the issues are allegations of maladministration in the financial aid office of the university involving the altering of student banking details to divert Nsfas student allowances from intended recipients to their own accounts or accounts linked to themselves. These are very serious allegations,” the letter read.

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During the university’s appearance before the portfolio committee on higher education on February 9, Nzimande said several allegations were made, including that there was a lack of transparency in disciplinary processes, procurement irregularities, a culture of fear and victimisation, irregularities in the application of institutional policies, poor infrastructure maintenance and a dysfunctional registrar’s office.

It is my strong view that the assessment will assist my office and the council by identifying any governance failures and ensuring that there is no repeat of such failures.

“The recommendations stemming from such an assessment may assist the council in restoring proper governance and public confidence in the governance of the CUT.”

Details about the probe

Nzimande said the assessor would investigate the circumstances leading to De Jager’s suspension to determine if there was any breach of the fiduciary duty on the part of council.

Other terms of reference for the investigation included:

. The impact on the financial sustainability of the council’s resolution to pay for the accommodation of Nsfas students in December 2020 and January last year from the university’s savings;

. The current situation of the university’s governance and executive management structures, particularly their functioning and efficacy;

. The operations of the office of the registrar relating to the management of academic affairs, registration and certification matters, and any other matters that the assessor believes warrant investigation;

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. The current state of management, including policies and procedures pertaining to financial management, supply chain management and human resources;

. The financial policies and procedures of the university and its business entities, with a specific focus on internal audit processes, procurement and tender procedures, and any specific allegations of financial irregularity that may be brought to the attention of the assessor;

. The allegations of financial maladministration at the university’s financial aid office; and

. Any matters that, in the assessor’s opinion, may impact on the effective functioning of the university from the analysis of problems relating to governance and management.


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Msindisi Fengu 

Journalist

+27 11 713 9001
msindisi.fengu@citypress.co.za
www.citypress.co.za
69 Kingsway Rd, Auckland Park


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