NEHAWU Free State Welcomes The Independent Assessor Report On Cut And Implores Minister To Act Swiftly On The Recommendations
Wednesday June 28, 2023
The National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union [NEHAWU] in the Free State Province welcomes the report of the independent assessor, Prof Norman Duncan into the affairs of the Central University of Technology, Free State (CUT) as published in the Government Gazette No 48696 on 2 June 2023.
As NEHAWU, we are vindicated by the report's findings considering that we were the first stakeholder to call for Minister Dr Nzimande to intervene at CUT in accordance with the Higher Education Act (Amended) on February 9, 2022, at the portfolio committee on Higher Education, Science, and Innovation.
Our presentation before the portfolio committee underscored the main issues facing our institution, including the unbearable institutional climate marked by a pervasive culture of fear, a governance crisis, financial and procurement irregularities, a leadership and trust deficit, among other things.
While we believe that the Independent Assessor could have dug more to uncover numerous or obvious anomalies based on our observations and contributions throughout the assessment, the findings of the report reveal a deplorable state of governance at the institution. In particular, the report indicates that the council failed in exercising its governance and fiduciary responsibility as enshrined in the act. Moreover, the report revealed that the functioning and actions of council has in recent years constituted the most significant impediment to the university’s functioning and growth.
The report highlights our long-held view that the council is disinterested in providing its governance oversight to hold management accountable. Instead of leading the realisation of the institution’s vision which states “by 2030, CUT will be a leading University of Technology in Africa, shaping the future through innovation”, council has the tendency to focus not only on governance but increasingly also on operational matters which they had specific interest in. The deplorable state of governance at CUT warrants that critical questions regarding CUT council be asked. (i) What exactly is the obligation of the council, if key infrastructure projects that have been funded by DHET could not get off the ground for years? (ii) What other financial irregularities that could be existing in the institution if there was misappropriation of student financial aid payments while there is an existing council? Nevertheless, despite the glaring governance problems, the report revealed that the number of council meetings has escalated alarmingly over the past three years with 68 meetings in 2021 and 85 meetings in 2022 respectively (inclusive of committee meetings), resulting to an excessive council cost. Yet, nothing concrete or tangible has come out of those meetings that reveals the intention of achieving the university’s strategic goals. This is a demonstration of an alarming state of governance dysfunction.
Given the appalling state of governance at CUT, we fully concur with the Independent Assessor’s conclusion that in view of the damage that the current council has caused, that Minister Dr Nzimande must act swiftly to disband the council and appoint an administrator to assume the responsibilities of council until the appointment of a completely reconstituted Council.
As NEHAWU, we are delighted by the fact that the Independent Assessor’s report could not make any finding regarding the existence of a phenomenon identified as “stakeholderisation” of councils in the guidelines for good governance practice and governance indicators for councils of South African public higher education institutions (DHET, 2017). We, therefore, commend internal stakeholders at CUT for excessing restraint and having the best interest of the institution at heart.
We also wish to indicate that since the arrival of the new Vice-Chancellor Prof Pamela Dube at the beginning of the year, we are beginning to see signs of stability in the institution, thus the recommendation by the Independent Assessor that the Administrator to be appointed to assist the newly appointed Vice-Chancellor and Principal of the University in restoring good governance and propel the realization of bold CUT vision 2030.
Issued by NEHAWU Free State Secretariat
For further information, please contact Khauhelo Mnqibisa [Provincial Secretary] at 063 685 1887 or email Khauhelo@nehawu.org.za or
Jack Mabeba [Provincial Deputy Secretary] at 063 685 1907 or email Jack@nehawu.org.za