Nzimande suspends Department of Higher Education's DG

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Higher Education, Science and Innovation Minister Blade Nzimande.
Higher Education, Science and Innovation Minister Blade Nzimande.
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  • The Department of Higher Education and Training says Director-General Gwebinkundla Qonde has been suspended.
  • Minister Blade Nzimande said he noted the precautionary suspension.
  • The suspension comes after a disclaimer audit opinion by the Auditor-General of South Africa.

The Director-General of the Department of Higher Education and Training Gwebinkundla Qonde has been suspended pending a forensic investigation into the National Skills Fund. The suspension comes after a disclaimer audit opinion by the Auditor-General of South Africa (AGSA).

Higher Education, Science and Innovation Minister Blade Nzimande said in a statement he noted the precautionary suspension.

"The suspension of the DG is in terms of the Public Service Act and the SMS handbook. Following this precautionary suspension of Director-General Qonde, Minister Nzimande appointed the Department of Science and Innovation, Director General, Dr Phil Mjwara to act as the Director-General of the Department of Higher Education and Training until the conclusion of the investigations and any process that may ensue thereafter," the statement said.

READ | Blade Nzimande given a lifeline to appeal Ceta judgments

The National Skills Fund received the disclaimer audit during the 2019/20 financial year.

The AG found the National Skills Fund’s budget was materially underspent by R1.8 billion. It also found that the entity did not have adequate systems to maintain records of commitments and earmarked funds. In addition, it found adjustments in the financial statement could not be determined whether it was necessary to the skills development funding expenses stated at R2.5 billion.

In March the Nationals Skills Fund said it had lodged a dispute over the disclaimer audit.

Mjwara was appointed with immediate effect from Friday.

"Minister Nzimande wishes Director-General Mjwara well in his new responsibility, and urges all employees and stakeholders of the department to fully cooperate with the acting DG," the statement said.

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