Meropa residence at VUT, which was vandalised in 2016 during student protests but has not been repaired yet despite government-issued funds.

Johannesburg - More than R31-million has been diverted from renovating a burnt-out 120-bed Gauteng university residence to “cosmetic” projects such as painting walls.

This is despite the staggering shortage of tertiary accommodation.

This diversion of the government-issued money has drawn the ire of Vaal University of Technology (VUT) students and officials, who have accused management of compromising much-needed accommodation by flouting procurement policies to do “non-essential” projects, which the institution called an “emergency”.

Meropa residence was destroyed in May 2016 during student protests and the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) confirmed that, through its infrastructure and efficiency grant (IEG), money was given to the university to refurbish the residence as well as three lecture halls and the electrical supply network.

Of the R3 12336 62 budgeted for fixing essential infrastructure, R18.2m, which included insurance money, was set aside for Meropa and R4.7m to refurbish three lecture halls.

DHET spokesperson Lunga Ngqengelele said Higher Education Minister Naledi Pandor approved IEG funding for each university for designated projects, and ministerial or departmental approval was required should the money be used for other purposes.

“The university has not requested department or ministerial approval for a change in scope in relation to these three projects, and implementations of these are expected to continue as currently approved,” Ngqengelele said.

However,  VUT spokesperson Mike Khuboni said the institution’s vice-chancellor Professor Gordon Zide was advised by relevant departments which deal with infrastructure budgets and that the distribution of funds was in line with policies of the DHET.

Paint priorities

A July internal document showed that the maintenance projects which Vaal University of Technology deemed as an emergency included:

◆ R4.7m to paint existing internal residences

◆ R4.1m to refurbish bathrooms

◆ A collective R7.9m to make upgrades on two functioning residences.

The Star