Minister of Higher Education, Technology and Innovation, Dr Blade Nzimande, has placed Unisa under administration.
The announcement was made by the minister yesterday (corr) following weeks of speculation over the future of the embattled university, which was outed for maladministration and other governance challenges by independent assessor, Professor Themba Mosia, in May this year.
In May, the Unisa council admitted the institution had “serious governance” issues, but maintained there was no chaos.
Nzimande appointed Mosia as the independent assessor to investigate all affairs at Unisa, which included tender and supply chain issues, as well as the nature of vice-chancellor Professor Puleng LenkaBula’s official residence and her governance style.
Mosia recommended the “full administration of Unisa, where both council and management are relieved of their duties”.
The minister said his decision was informed by the recommendations made by the independent assessor.
“Following the concerns highlighted by the Independent Assessor, Professor Themba Mosia, and the findings of the ministerial task team (MTT) led by Vincent Maphai, I served a notice of my intention to place the university under administration.
“My final decision on this matter will be communicated tomorrow, 6 October 2023. It remains our commitment as the Department of Higher Education and Training to ensure the effective functioning of Unisa and all our institutions,” Nzimande said.
Mosia’s report was preceded by the MTT report, which also made similar findings against Unisa.
The report was tabled at a portfolio committee meeting in February last year and pointed to issues of ICT infrastructure as being in need of urgent attention.
“Unisa’s information and communications technology (ICT) infrastructure is outdated and has increasingly become less fit for purpose over the years,” the MTT found.
When it comes to the Independent Assessor report, it made allegations against Unisa VC and principal, LenkaBula as well as the university council who were found to have brought the institution into disrepute through maladministration and governance issues.
The report said Unisa has been characterised by a culture of fear, intimidation and bullying following purging and mass resignation of council and other senior staff members.
There was also the issue pointing to LenkaBula having mismanaged Unisa’s budget by over R1 million. It alleged that the VC had splurged up to R 3m in the upgrade of her formal residence while only R1m was approved according to the budget.
It alleged that LenkaBula splurged R74 000 on air-conditioning, R49 000 on replacement of a borehole, R28 500 on luxury curtains among many other expenses.
Mosia further added that there were supply chain issues affecting Unisa’s tendering systems.
“I visited Cloghereen to view the renovations at the house. I was shown all the work that had been done as part of the renovations ... the university paid R28 500 for the procurement of curtains, so I was very interested to see the quality of these curtains. I was surprised to see sheer curtains, as can be seen in the picture,” Mosia said in his report.
Mosia recommended that the university be placed under administration so as to take over the role and execute the management of the university.
Two months ago, the minister delayed making his final decision and allowed for the university council to make its representations before he could decide on its future.
“Being mindful of the legal and administrative requirements, the minister awaited the response of the council and nothing of substance happened for more than a month, instead the council is going about its business as if there is no pending decision to be taken. As a result, the minister cannot wait indefinitely without taking a decision,” read part of the statement from the minister.
Nzimande said he was satisfied that the assessor’s report was correct in its assessment of financial and other maladministration challenges faced by the institution.
He said the report was also that appointing an administrator would be in the best interests of Unisa.
The Star contacted Unisa but was informed that the minister had not communicated his decision with Unisa following his announcement to place the university under administration.