TUT business model questioned by parliament's education portfolio
News / 10 February 2020, 5:00pm / KARABO NGOEPE and MZILIKAZI WA AFRIKA
Johannesburg - The stand-off between Parliament’s portfolio committee on higher education, science and technology and the Tshwane University of Technology (TUT) seems to be far from over.
The committee visited the institution on Thursday to assess the state of readiness for the 2020 academic year and to follow up on allegations levelled against management and its business arm, TUT Enterprise Holdings (TUTEH).
Following the meeting, committee chairperson Philly Mapulane said they were still concerned and called for an investigation into the conduct of TUTEH management. Another thorny issue for the committee was the lack of transparency with regards to the qualifications of the university’s chief financial officer S’celo Mahlalela.
“The committee is convinced that the current business model by the university in leveraging a third stream income through TUTEH, is fraught with serious difficulties in terms of the financial risks vis-à-vis value for money in its operational model, including its procurement processes which are susceptible to unethical business practice including corruption; conflict of interest in its governance and management structures; unsound financial practice of billing its service providers through the university and irregular appointment of staff including senior managers, among others,” he said.
Mapulane added that most stakeholders were of the belief that the enterprise was duplicating the services that are managed by the university and had not brought in new innovations with regard to sourcing a third stream income.
“We strongly believe that the current business model of TUTEH is not in the best interest of the university and therefore must be reviewed by council as a matter of urgency.”
University management was also lashed for not filling positions. Of the four deputy vice-chancellors, only one was substantive and three were acting.
“It’s unacceptable for a situation where senior executives are suspended for long periods without any disciplinary processes being initiated or concluded. The committee further calls for the speedy verification of the qualifications of the chief financial officer Mr Mahlalela. It is neither in the interest of the university nor that of Mr Mahlalela to allow these allegations to linger on without being attended to, as they impact adversely on the academic reputation of Mr Mahlalela,” Mapulane said.
He added that in bringing the matter to finality, the university was directed to verify Mahlalela’s qualifications with the South African Qualifications Authority and the South African Institute of Chartered Accountants and to bring a report to the committee.
TUT spokesperson Willa de Ruyter declined to comment on the committee’s statement, instead, saying they would look into the matter and respond in due course.
“As a university, we take note of our stakeholders’ contributions during the oversight visit, as well as the engagement with the PPC. The university council and management will respond in due course,” she said.
Mahlalela has maintained that he was a qualified chartered accountant. He, however, could not produce the certificates and proof of affiliations to the regulatory bodies.
The university has been at the centre of controversy with allegations of corruption, jobs for pals and abuse of power.
Questions were also raised about the role played by Gauteng Health MEC Bandile Masuku as the chairperson of the TUT Council. Masuku has since resigned from the position.
In a letter sent to Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande and TUT Vice-Chancellor Professor Lourens van Staden on February 3, Masuku resigned with immediate effect. He said he took the decision so that he can focus on his responsibilities as MEC.
Masuku added that the university was under attack and said those behind it were trying to vilify them. Masuku was accused of parachuting Mahlalela into the position of CFO, something they have both denied.