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Vaal University of Technology’s new council has extended vice-chancellor Professor Irene Moutlana’s term, despite her being found guilty of financial maladministration.
Moutlana’s five-year term was due to end in December, but has since been extended by three years by the new council.
The council took over from the former university’s administrator, Professor Patrick FitzGerald, earlier this month.
FitzGerald put Moutlana on special leave in November last year following allegations that she had personally meddled in the awarding of a tender and that she allowed the company that won the bid to overspend on the project.
The university was supposed to spend R486 000 on its strategy review project, but it ended up forking out more than R1.3 million.
Moutlana was found guilty and was given a final warning and the arbitration ruled that, while there was no suggestion that she had personally benefited from the project, she had been negligent.
Moutlana returned to her position in June.
National Education Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) spokesman Sizwe Pamla said they were disappointed at the council’s decision.
“It’s unacceptable and it’s something that needs to be reversed,” he said.
He said the union expected that the Department of Higher Education and Training and the council should have considered that she had been irresponsible in managing the finances of the university and therefore could not lead it any further.
“They have rewarded her actions now,” he said.
“They do not see anything wrong with the fact that she was found guilty,” said Pamla.
“We will engage with the department and we will explore opportunities available to us to see that the decision is reversed,” he added.
But council chairman Busani Mabunda told The Sunday Independent yesterday that the council considered a lot of factors before it made its decision to keep Moutlana and was confident that she was fit to lead the university.
She had not been found guilty of corruption or having benefited from the tender, but was negligent and, in fact, the project that put her under the spotlight was found to be helping the university, he said.
Mabunda said the council had to consider what was in the best interests of the university, especially because it had been under administration and needed to be stabilised.
“It was not in the best interest of the university to bring someone new…
“She is better placed to take the mandate and vision of the university further. She still has a lot to offer,” said Mabunda.
The former university council, which was disbanded by Minister of Higher Education and Training Blade Nzimande earlier this year, had also appointed a task team to investigate the over-expenditure on the tender.
The task team found that Moutlana had awarded the tender “unethically and irregularly” and recommended that she be fired.
After Moutlana returned to her position at the university after having been found guilty, some former council members expressed shock at the university’s decision. Moutlana declined to comment, referring queries to Mike Khuboni, the spokesman. Khuboni said he was on leave and referred us to communications manager Kediemetse Mokotsi.
Mokotsi said she could only respond on Tuesday after the university recess.