MBA program investigating Transnet CEO's qualification

A top international MBA programme, which awarded Transnet CEO Siyabonga Gama his degree, says it is investigating allegations "about academic integrity" involving Gama's qualification. 

This after a spokesperson for global consultancy McKinsey & Co told Fin24 earlier on Monday that Gama had received help from a partner at the firm to prepare part of his coursework to graduate from the renowned Trium Global Executive MBA programme. 

Gama was part of the class of 2016. 

The Transnet CEO has denied the help he received was related to content, saying it was purely around "language and flow" for a specific module, which was a group, not an individual project.  

"We informed the South African authorities last year that our internal investigation found evidence that a McKinsey partner coordinated research support and used company resources to help draft some of a client executive's MBA coursework," a McKinsey spokesperson told Fin24 on Monday.

"This support, which was outside the scope of any client engagement, was a serious violation of the firm’s professional standards. The individual in question, who is the same partner to whom we refer in our statement of 17 October 2017, is no longer with our firm."

While Trium, an collaborative MBA programme jointly run by the NYU Stern School of Business, the London School of Economics and Political Science and HEC School of Management, did not reply to an emailed request for comment, on Monday evening it tweeted from its official account that it had been "made aware of recent allegations about academic integrity involving a Trium alumnus".

It said it could not comment on specific student matters but was investigating. 

As Fin24 reported earlier, Vikas Sagar was a senior partner in the firm’s Johannesburg office and left the company under a cloud after details emerged of McKinsey’s dealings with Eskom and the Gupta-linked Trillian Capital Partners.

It appears that Sagar assigned several researchers at McKinsey’s Johannesburg office to help outline and prepare Gama’s submission to a joint thesis to which he had to contribute at least two chapters. McKinsey’s support to Gama was discovered in July last year.

Gama, who was appointed permanent CEO of Transnet in April 2016, told Fin24 in a WhatsApp statement on Monday morning that he only received help with the language and flow of the report, not the content.

Read Gama's response below 

“No I never received any research help to complete my MBA from Vikas Sagar. What happened was that I was coordinating and editing various research inputs into an action learning capstone project which was part of a group study we were doing with 5 other colleagues in my class.

"The colleagues were based in India , The Netherlands, France and Nigeria. Each student was responsible for different chapters in a project dealing with last mile logistics. I was resident expert in the group on these matters. However each student had different writing styles.

"Mr Sagar offered that we could send our inputs to an editor he knew who could assist with the language and flow of the report. We acknowledged that support in our final report.

"It was not support of an academic nature but more the optics of writing the report. The whole team was responsible for the report overall and it was not an individual project. I was, at the time, not aware that his company policy did not allow him to provide such references and that he used his company’s resources and time for this.”

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