CPUT & TUT on governance and related matters

Higher Education, Science and Technology

24 February 2021
Chairperson: Mr P Mapulane (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

Video: Portfolio Committee on Higher Education, Science and Technology - 24th Feb 2021

The Committee met virtually with the Council and management of the Tshwane University of Technology (TUT) and Cape Town Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT), along with its Student Representative Councils (SRCs) and labour unions, to receive a briefing on governance and other related matters that were raised by the Committee on previous engagements.

For TUT, the Committee had raised the following matters that Council and management needed to respond to: progress with respect to the implementation of the recommendations contained in the Committee report submitted to TUT; progress report on the finalisation of outstanding disciplinary cases against employees; update on the review of the TUTEH business model; progress with the filling of senior management positions; update on the disbursement of the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) funding and allowances to students; and readiness for the 2021 academic year.

The SRC from TUT was also invited to brief the Committee on its relationship with management and the Council. The SRC told Members that its relationship with management has improved and Members were pleased with the improved relationship. The Committee commended management for its efforts to strengthen its relationship with the SRC, even though there were still outstanding matters that students were still struggling with, such as NSFAS allowances and bursary payments, teaching and learning, issuing of laptops to students, infrastructure – residences and adherence to Covid-19 regulations, amongst others.

The National Education, Health and Allied Workers Union (NEHAWU) and the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) also made comments on matters of governance, infrastructure, buildings, and the wellbeing of workers at the University. NEHAWU touched on covid-19 issues; extension of contracts; challenges experienced by workers; and readiness for the 2021 academic year. NTEU made the following recommendations to the Committee: do an investigation into the TUT reserves, since the establishment of TUTEH; do an investigation on TUTEH; conduct lifestyle audits for staff working at TUTEH; do an investigation on TUTEH and the impact its dealings have on TUT employees; do an investigation on the wasteful expenditure of defending wrongdoings and ineffective management at the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA); and do an investigation into the relationship between EMC, Council and the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA).

Members asked questions about how much of the outstanding money owed by NSFAS was for student allowances and what the University has done in the interim to ensure that students were not interrupted during exam time; whether there were NSFAS students that still had debt; and the Council’s way forward on TUTEH.

Members were not pleased with the responses provided by management and council on the matters it sought clarity on. The Council was then instructed to go back and formulate detailed responses on those matters. Members resolved to have a follow up engagement with council and management for much detailed responses.

For CPUT, the Committee requested it to address the following matters, from its previous engagements with Council and management: the memorandum of demands submitted by the SRC; update on the disbursement of the NSFAS funding and allowances to students; governance and related matters (resignation of the former Chairperson of Council); findings and recommendations of the Yekiso and Moerane Commission reports and progress with the implementation of the recommendations; and readiness for the 2021 academic year.
The CPUT SRC and the labor unions (RTU) were not pleased with the management and council of CPUT. The SRC told Members that nothing had happened since the last engagement with the Committee at the University and on its relationship with management. The Unions made a number of damning allegations against management and council ranging from unilateral implementation of decisions without consulting labour, even on matters affecting workers; salary disparities and increases made without involving labour unions, which affects the ongoing salary negotiations.
Members were very disappointed with the management and Council of CPUT and felt that it needed to go back and draft appropriate, complete and detailed responses on the matters that were raised by Members in previous engagements.

Members resolved to have a follow up engagement with management and council due to time constraints.
 

Meeting report

Opening remarks

The Chairperson opened the meeting, by telling the Committee that the meeting was a follow up with the Tshwane University of Technology (TUT) – as the last engagement was last year when the Committee visited the institution. There were fruitful engagements and a way forward was determined. This would entail how far the University has gone in the implementation of the recommendations that were made by the Committee during the oversight visit. Essentially, this was a progress report in how far those recommendations were implemented.

The Committee would also receive a briefing from the Student Representative Council (SRC), which is believed to be an interim structure.

Mr Tilson Manyoni, Chairperson of Council: TUT, introduced the delegation and handed over to the Vice Chancellor, Prof Lourens van Staden.

Mr Manyoni told the Committee that the University had appointed an assessor to evaluate the recommendations that were raised. The assessor was then invited to come and present the report. Council then came up with a number of recommendations to resolve the situation.

Briefing by TUT on governance and other related matters
Prof Lourens van Staden, Vice Chancellor: TUT, commenced the presentation by outlining the following discussion points that were specified and requested by the Committee from Council and management:

-Progress with respect to the implementation of the recommendations contained in the Committee report submitted to TUT;
-Progress report on the finalisation of outstanding disciplinary cases against employees;
-Update on the review of the TUTEH business model;
-Progress with the filling of senior management positions;
-Update on the disbursement of NSFAS funding and allowances to students; and
-Readiness for the 2021 academic year

Each member of the delegation was tasked to present on the above matters on the actions taken by management and Council as raised by the Committee.

Prof Moretlo Mokuele, Executive Director: Human Resources and Transformation, TUT, took Members through the Human Resources matters and spoke on the disciplinary process regarding Prof Moraka. The process was delayed due to the stoppages that took place twice and each time the process was stopped, it had to start from scratch and a procurement process for private arbitration followed each time. Due to his employment contract, it was stipulated that disciplinary processes would be dealt with through private arbitration.

Parties attempted to settle but no settlement was reached. The process was now underway.

At this point all executive positions have been filled. There were two DVC positions that were vacant but they have since been filled.

Mr Theo Madurai, Acting Chief Financial Officer: TUT, presented on the update of NSFAS funding and allowances to students. NSFAS owed the institution about R2.8 billion, of which most of it has been paid and there was only about over R200 million that was still outstanding.

Prof Staden then presented on the readiness of the 2021 academic year. The University has embarked on remote learning and teaching due to Covid-19. The University’s plan was approved by the Department.

Only 75% of students have smartphones, and for those that did not have access to this, the University has provided printed material to those students nationwide.

The student support desk has been made available to provide support to students from their remote locations. The 2020 academic year will finish in March this year. Students were still writing exams. By the end of this year, the University would have been back to normal because of the delays that have been experienced.

Students will be allowed to be back to campus but through a staggered approach while adhering to Covid-19 regulations.

[see presentation attached for further details]

TUT Student Representative Council briefing
Mr Mike Mothiba, SRC President: TUT presented on the state of affairs at the University; teaching and learning, NSFAS payments, allowances and payments to students and the state of readiness of the University for the 2021 academic year.

The University has successfully implemented the online blended learning for students, but there were still students in need of devices and gadgets to be able to learn online.

He suggested that the University should consider employing engineering students to conduct the maintenance of the University, which would create employment for TUT students, instead of employing private companies that do not transfer skills to the students.

[see presentation attached for further details]

Briefing by NEHAWU on TUT governance and other related matters

NEHAWU felt that the University was not managing Covid-19 properly. There are allegations around the procurement of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) that NEHAWU was currently addressing with management. A full account of these allegations can be provided to the Committee.

NEHAWU touched on covid-19 issues; extension of contracts; challenges experienced by workers; and the readiness of the 2021 academic year.

[see presentation attached for further details]

The Chairperson was pleased that NEHAWU was now speaking with one voice, because during the oversight visit last year, the Committee received two different presentations from NEHAWU.

Briefing by NTEU on governance and other related matters on TUT

Mr Thabo Mpete, from NTEU, gave a presentation that touched on the governance of the institution; building and infrastructure; TUTEH; safety of staff during Covid-19; and made the following recommendations:
-Do an investigation into the TUT reserves, since the establishment of TUTEH
-Do an investigation on TUTEH
-Conduct lifestyle audits for staff working at TUTEH
-Do an investigation on TUTEH and the impact its dealings has on TUT employees
-Do an investigation on the wasteful expenditure of defending wrongdoings and ineffective management at the CCMA
-Do an investigation into the relationship between EMC, Council and NUMSA
 
The Chairperson thanked the delegation for the inputs, comments and presentations. He asked Members to avoid preambles and dive straight into the questions because of time constraints.

Discussion

Mr T Letsie (ANC) said from the presentation of the students, it looks like the institution has done well in addressing teaching and learning. Students seem to be happy, notwithstanding the meagre challenges, here and there.  He said that it looks like remote learning and teaching for students was coordinated.

On finance, he wanted to know how much of the outstanding money owed by NSFAS was for student allowances and what the University has done in the interim to ensure that students were not interrupted during exam time.

The President of the SRC informed Members that there was a large number of students that still had debt – the question then is are these NSFAS students; if so, how many of these students still had debt? Did these students not benefit from the historic debt relief?

On the disciplinary of Prof Moraka, there is consensus that the delays were frustrating and the Committee needs to ask the University to expedite the process. He pointed out that when the Committee visits TUT, this process should be finalised.

On TUTEH, the presentation of the University was too high level. There were not enough details on the review of the business model. Mr Letsie suggested that, maybe in three weeks or so, the Committee could visit the institution and seek out details on TUTEH.

When the Committee visited TUT last year, NTEU raised the matter that it was not pleased with the matter of the qualifications of the former Chief Financial Officer (CFO). The Committee seeks honesty and truthfulness on these matters. NTEU pointed out that there were still many positions that were not filled but TUT only indicated that there were two key positions that were not filled. The contradiction was deeply concerning and clarity must be provided on this matter.

There was a strike in TUT that was happening for a long time. One of the residents’ state is not up to standard, but the university would have presented to the Committee a different view. Students have indicated that they want to move to leased residences, not the University residences and the Committee needs to ascertain why this was the case.

The country faces severe fiscal challenges and increasing the radius may not be feasible at the moment as the SRC proposed.

He asked for the way forward for TUTEH, plans and details on its future. Members cannot take an informed decision on TUTEH right now because information was not complete or detailed enough for Members to make recommendations.

Ms N Tarabella-Marchesi (DA) asked about the capacity of the University on its state of technology seeing that learning and teaching will be migrating to remote learning. How many graduates from the University end up finding employment and does the institution follow up on this?

TUT claimed that TUTEH would repay the loan made to public funds, when is the payment going to take place and how?

 Lastly Ms Marchesi asked about the infrastructure, commenting that there is a limited number of construction companies available in the country, meanwhile there are students that study these things. Is there any plan on the part of the University to capacitate students with formal training, especially those that are studying to go into this field?

Ms D Sibiya (ANC) said that she felt that the disciplinary process was full of delay tactics – many excuses have come up and she was unsure whether it would be completed.

On the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) reparations, there is no NSFAS claims for 2020, but the there is a sum of payments made by NSFAS – who was then paid?

She referred to the SRC, saying that there are students who have not received their allowances and funding from NSFAS. The question is, is this being attended to by management?

Ms J Mananiso (ANC) asked about plans to ensure that IT issues were addressed. She supported the recommendation of NEHAWU on the delegation of powers of the VC to the Council.

On governance, she exclaimed that there is light at the end of the tunnel. It seems all stakeholders at the University were working together. She asked the stakeholders to produce a plan on what it intends to do.

On performance contracts, she asked for the synopsis of what was contained in the performance contracts that were being developed.

Mr B Yabo (ANC) asked about the prescribed timeliness on any disciplinary process that the University undertakes. It seems the University has a history of punitive disciplinary processes that drag on for very long periods of time.

TUTEH must present to the Committee on the matter of student accommodation and Members want to know about what has been done to address the shortfalls on student accommodation and the criteria used to qualify the public/private partnerships? Who would stand to qualify as a private partner? How much has been raised so far on the public/private partnerships for student accommodation?

Members would also like to know whether the TUTEH model actually works.

Mr S Tambo (EFF) reemphasized the need to go back to TUT to ascertain on the TUTEH matter. There are a lot of critical issues that arise from the summary provided by the institution. Members need to get a more comprehensive outline on the infrastructure project management or mismanagement that occurred, amongst other matters.

He was interested in the TUT, Special Investigating Unit (SIU) interaction with the institution. What did the SIU investigate in the institution?

Mr M Nxumalo (IFP) asked whether registration included first year students that have been accepted by the institution.

He said that he was pleased with the relationship between the SRC and management because it appeared like there is cooperation and a smooth relationship.

NEHAWU requested that the recommendations of the Committee that were made before be provided to it, as well as the progress of the implementation of those recommendations.

The Chairperson also commented on the prolonged disciplinary processes. During the last oversight visit, the Committee asked management to finalise these processes. Since that visit, that finalisation has not happened. He saw a headline in the Sunday World newspaper saying that Dr Moraka has earned over a million rand in salaries sitting at home doing nothing. It is not acceptable that the university is failing to finalise this matter. It is in the interest of the University to finalise these processes – the University must circumvent by any means necessary all delays from the second party.

He asked the Chairperson of the Council to intervene on this matter to ensure that the matter was finalised. It looks like that request has been ignored. This is a problem, because resources of the University are being utilised. The person acting in Dr Moraka’s position is being paid acting fees, and Dr Moraka was also being paid a salary while doing nothing and there are also legal fees involved. The Committee would like to get a tallied amount of how much has been spent on legal fees – for the duration of this process.

On infrastructure, NEHAWU raises concerns about the state of buildings on the Ga-Rankuwa Campus.  The Committee expects a detailed report on this matter. The Chairperson said that he was uncertain as to why the issue was still persisting. The report must also address the costs of the buildings that have not been completed – the cost of non-completion; deviations; the approved budget versus what is happening; the projected expenditure on the completion of all these projects.

The Chairperson also felt that some of the issues were being dealt with at a superficial level, because there was a lack of details on important matters that were recommended by the Committee.

The Committee had received a report that was commissioned by the Council of the Independent Assessor. After going through the report, it does not paint a good picture of the operations of TUTEH. Management and Council should have taken the Committee into confidence on the matters that were raised in that report. The key issues raised in that Report were:
-Rationale for the establishment of the entity;
-Governance structure – how the board was constituted;
-The business model was also raised and the fact that there has never been a charter that guides the operations of the entity;
-Issues of employment practises – recruitment and remunerations of employees;
-Transfer of amounts from the University to the entity (TUTEH);
-Conflict of interest on members of the board and management – declaration of interest; and
-No income derived by the University since the establishment of the entity (TUTEH)

In summary these are the key issues raised in the report, and Members had hoped that the Council would address these matters and bring the Committee into confidence on what it has done or planning to do to address them. This must also be done in a transparent manner. The University did not do justice to the Committee in respect to all those matters that were raised in that report.

Council has the right to delegate, but one needs to peruse the statutes on the delegation of Council.

The Chairperson declared that the Committee will furnish all the reports and information received by it to NEHAWU.

He appealed to the University to take into consideration matters that the Committee raises and should seek to address them with veracity and seriousness.

The Chairperson indicated to the Council and management that it could respond to the matters raised, maintaining the standard that was expected by the Committee – that is full detail. He did not want the Council and management to respond for the sake of just responding.

Responses

Prof Staden thanked the Committee for the opportunity and said that management would rather get the final report and engage with the Committee. He agreed that there should have been more details provided by the Council.

Mr Manyoni said that the Council was willing to have a follow up engagement with the Committee on the matters that were raised. He declared that the Council commits to resolving the matters raised by the Committee and in the next engagement full details and account of what is expected by the Committee would be furnished.

The Chairperson thanked the Chairperson of Council and the VC and proposed that perhaps in the follow up engagement, the independent assessor could be invited to that engagement. Hopefully, the Council will not necessitate this by giving the Committee incomplete and not detailed information.

He was pleased with the relationship that management and Council had established with the SRC and noted that progress had been made, notwithstanding the few challenges that still existed.

There was an issue with the qualification matter of the CFO that was raised by NTEU. The Committee investigated further from SAQA and it was found that he possessed those qualifications. SAQA verified and confirmed to the Committee that the CFO had the required qualifications for that position.

He urged stakeholders to keep aloof from bringing baseless and unnecessary allegations that could potentially damage other people’s reputations.

Moving on, the Chairperson pointed out that there have been several requests to engage with CPUT and the Committee has written several times to the Council. The Committee has since received a letter from the students containing its memorandum of demands.

Briefing by the Cape Peninsula University of Technology on governance and related matters

Prof Zuko Mapoma, Chairperson of the Council: CPUT, said that he was not aware of the Committee’s attempts to engage with the University and confirmed that it is a matter that he would take up with management to ensure that this did not happen again.

He extended an invitation to the Committee to actually visit the University.

He said that as the Council, it was comfortable that it was in track. The focus was on the strategic trajectory of the University to achieve the 2030 vision. The challenges in the institution are within the Council’s control.

The complaints from the Committee to Council have been taken to heart and the Council was now ready to report back to the Committee on what it has done in addressing those complaints.

Prof Chris Nhlapo, Vice Chancellor: CPUT, commenced the presentation to Members and touched on the following matters: Council’s response to the memorandum of demands submitted by the SRC; update on the disbursement of the NSFAS funding and allowances to students; governance and related matters (resignation of the former Chairperson of Council); findings and recommendations of the Yekiso and Moerane Commission reports and progress with the implementation of the recommendations; and readiness for the 2021 academic year.
[see presentation attached for further details]

Discussion
The Chairperson said that he had thought that the VC would also respond to the issues that were raised in the memorandum by the students, particularly what management has done in response.

He asked the VC to summarise these in about ten minutes.

Mr Tambo said that he was concerned about the summary provided by the VC within the time constraints because it looked like the VC had more to say and maybe this can be engaged on further when there is time to respond to the matters sufficiently.

Prof Nhlapo said that there was an important demand on the Yekiso Commission on the allegations that the VC was corrupt or involved. During the period in which the allegations were made, he was not yet a VC. He felt that he needed to provide this context for Members for when they are perusing the documents.

The Chairperson said that he was inclined to agree with the suggestion made by Mr Tambo for now, but the VC’s remarks were noted.

He then invited the student leadership to make its presentation.

CPUT Student Representative Council briefing

Ms Nonele Ganyile, Secretary-General of the Central SRC of CPUT, said that since the last appearance in the Committee nothing has changed at CPUT. The relationship between management and the SRC remains disjointed and management continues to make decisions that affect students without involving the SRC.

The SRC observed that the University uses covid-19 regulations as an excuse to exclude the SRC from engaging with management on important matters or when management meets to discuss matters affecting students.

Ms Ganyile said that the SRC was not aware that there was a report or work done on the memorandum of demands that was submitted by the students. A directive was given by the Committee to Council to respond to the student demands. The SRC was not aware or engaged at all. It was the first time the SRC was privy to the response by Council on those demands.

There were no negotiations between management and SRC to find solutions. This is why protests continued on campus. Students wake up and see matters on Newsflash that have been decided on in which students were not even consulted on. Only last week the University started instituting the hearings of the suspensions. The process of those hearings was questioned, because so much time had lapsed.

The student body is afraid of Madam Dean and the Vice Chancellor because when students raise issues, students are threatened with lawyers and suspension.

Recognised Trade Unions (RTU) briefing on the CPUT governance and related matters

Mr Mlumiso Zimisele, National Public Service Workers Union (NPSWU), took Members through the presentation and outlined grievances of the unions with management and Council of CPUT. These included, but were not limited to: governance of the University; unilateral implementation of decisions by Council and management; staff salaries increased without the involvement of unions - which affects the ongoing salary negotiations with the institution; the Yekiso Commission Report, which Council released only less than 50% of the content; irregularities in staff grading and salary disparities – payments on incorrect salary grades; readiness for the 2021 academic year pertaining to staff issues and student registration; and the lack of medical aid and other benefits for insourced members of staff .

[see presentation attached for further details]

The Chairperson interjected pointed out that unfortunately due to the time constraints, the Committee could not allow all the stakeholders to partake or continue with the briefings. He was fully aware that there were many matters that the labour union wanted to bring to the attention of the Committee.  

He proposed that given the time remaining, an engagement would not do justice to the information that has been received. Secondly, he pointed out that he was not satisfied with the response received from management, especially in relation to the matters that the Committee asked management and Council to prepare on.

There is a contentious issue of the Yekiso and the Moerane Commission reports. The Committee recommended that these reports be made available to the stakeholders.

He proposed a follow-up and asked the University to go back and prepare in line with what the Committee asked the Council and management to prepare on. He also said that the Committee wants more details on the Yekiso Report, the recommendations and what has been done to respond to those recommendations, point by point.

Ms Mananiso agreed with the Chairperson that the Council did not provide the information requested by the Committee; thus, agreed that Council must go back and prepare in line with what the Committee requested.

Mr Letsie also agreed with the proposal further saying that there are rumours that the VC was micro-managing the Council as if it was the sub-structure of his office.

It appeared to the Committee that the VC and the Dean were in some power struggle situation and perhaps those suspensions must be rescinded. One wonders whether they do not use the University funds for their lawyers.

Mr Yabo also agreed with the Chairperson’s proposal. The Committee has been advised continuously that in institutions of higher learning, there must not be an individual that seems as the higher being to ensure that the integrity of the institution is not compromised.

The University must prepare sufficiently on the issues that have been requested by the Committee. There are also a lot of stakeholder differences in the institution. He advised that in the next engagement these differences that are shown ever so poignantly should have been ironed out.

Mr Tambo also agreed with the proposal.

Ms N Mkhatshwa (ANC) supported the sentiments of the Members. She was frustrated that there was no way forward on the CPUT matters because there were many other institutions that also required the Committees intervention.

The Chairperson said that the Committee would now allow the management and Council to go and prepare a report on what the Committee had initially asked. There is a recommendation for engagement with SRC and the workers, in preparation for the next meeting. He said that he hopes that they can find each other.

He was concerned that the issues that were raised last year were still pertinent. Students have expressed that nothing has changed since the last engagement with the Committee. Council and management must reflect on these matters.

The Committee will consider an oversight visit bearing in mind the Covid-19 regulations and whether Members would be able to travel.


The meeting was adjourned.






 

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