Public Protector finds UL illegally outsourced unqualified private provider

POLOKWANE – It was recommended by the PP that the University Council take steps to ensure disciplinary actions were taken against the vice-chancellor and senior managers who approved the service provider and that the Hawks must, in terms of the Public Protector Act, commence an investigation within 30 days from the date of the report, into the link between a payment of R25 000 into one of the managers’ account during the procurement process.

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This happened after the university’s accreditation by the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) for the Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery (MBChB) programme and the indication that UL would be ready to admit students in 2015.

The new curriculum proposed by the service provider did not comply with the Council for Higher Education’s (CHE) requirements.

Jabu Mbokazi, then Director of the school of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery Programme, informed the university he was not in agreement with the tampering of the approved curriculum.

Mbokazi convened a curriculum meeting with module coordinators but was called to the vice-chancellor’s office who, at the time, told him to pack his bags and leave the institution if he did not want the new curriculum. The university implemented the unapproved curriculum and taught the students nursing, social work and pharmacy. Medical school students on a non-HPCSA approved programme were subjected to the risk of not only being unable to register or practice as medical doctors, but also of losing financial aid, bursaries and the loss of an academic year. The CHE formally withdrew the accreditation of the MBChB curriculum on 9 December 2016.

It meant the university did not admit any new medical students in 2017 and students had to be migrated and registered temporarily under the University of Pretoria’s curriculum. The current students enrolled with the university are studying a HPCSA approved curriculum.

Mbokazi, after more attempts to rectify the situation, reported the issue to the PP and during its investigation, found the irregular payment of R25 000 and recommended the matter be investigated by the Hawks. The PP also found UL failed to follow proper procurement processes when appointing the service provider to formulate or draw up the medical programme as it did not follow an open tender process and sidestepped its own procurement policies.

The PP found the vice-chancellor and senior managers’ conduct amounts to improper conduct in terms of the constitution and maladministration under the Public Protector Act. It was found the parties in question improperly introduced and implemented an altered curriculum at the School of Medicine, not accredited by HPCSA and CHE.

Mbokazi suffered financial loss as he was suspended and his suspension lifted on 5 April 2017 without bringing charges against him within six months.

The PP stated Mbokazi must be reimbursed for expenses incurred while pursuing his complaint and labour action against the university.

The PP recommended the University Council, within 30 working days from the date of the report, takes disciplinary steps against the vice-chancellor and senior managers in question and that irregular and or fruitless expenditure be recovered as prescribed by National Treasury.

The PP also ruled supply chain officials and all senior management are to attend a workshop on the supply chain management process and a policy must be developed on the declaration on conflict of interest for all staff for each financial year.

Pandelani Nefolovhodwe, Chairperson of the UL Council, said the university received the PP report and it has been referred to the university’s legal representatives. “They have not yet come back to us with advice, but we will take action accordingly.”

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  AUTHOR
Nelie Erasmus

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