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UKZN ordered to disclose cost of ’Operation Cleaver’

By Siboniso Mngadi Time of article published Jan 10, 2021

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Durban - The University of Kwazulu-Natal (UKZN) has been ordered to disclose all information relating to its investigation into the allegations of fraud where placements at its medical school were being offered in exchange for bribes.

The investigation known as “Operation Cleaver” was launched by the university in 2016 following allegations of bribery to gain placement at the Nelson R Mandela School of Medicine, which was exposed by the Sunday Tribune.

However, the investigations have dragged on for more than four years without anyone involved being criminally prosecuted or convicted.

This prompted businessman Visham Panday, an anti-corruption activist and founder of VP Justice Foundation, to file an application for the Promotion of Access to Information Act which was then turned down by UKZN. Panday then approached the Durban High Court.

However, he said, the university refused to disclose some of the information he requested such as the costs incurred since the inception of the investigation. Of concern was the amount of money spent on bodyguards and a safe house for the university’s forensic audit specialist Avril Sahadew who has led the investigation since 2016. He also wanted to know the overall costs associated with the investigation.

However, UKZN refused to provide the information saying it would compromise and prejudice Sahadew’s safety.

But Judge Mahendra Chetty dismissed that notion and ordered that UKZN provide Panday with the information including the costs.

In his order, Judge Chetty said Panday’s request does not entail a disclosure of the identity of any other persons who may be utilising the safe house nor divulging the details of any syndicate involved.

“As such, there can be no threat to the ongoing investigations being jeopardised. I see no reason why the university cannot provide details of the costs incurred and the duration of the services rendered.

“I cannot find any lawful basis for refusing to disclose the costs of Operation Clever to date. Panday, as stated earlier, need not show a reason for him wanting this information. However, I think that such disclosure would promote the interests of transparency and accountability, especially in times when students are advocating against the escalating costs of fees and where the university by its own admission in these papers, is operating under strained resources,” read the judgment.

Chetty said the disclosure of the amounts spent on this investigation to date and service providers procured by the university would also serve to refute any suggestion of nepotism or any other criticism on the selection of the service provider and costs incurred.

The university was ordered to furnish Panday with the information within 30 days of the order and pay all the costs he incurred.

Reacting to the judgment, Panday said he hoped the corrupt act within the university would be exposed when they finally disclosed the information. He said it was unacceptable that an investigation had taken so long without any development.

“The culprits must be arrested because they are known. It is unacceptable that the university was wasting more money on security while people are waiting for culprits to be held accountable,” he said.

Normah Zondo, UKZN'S acting executive director, said the university and its legal counsel were currently studying and considering the judgment.

"All legal options will be considered before deciding on acceptance or appeal," said Zondo.

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Sunday Tribune

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