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VUT conducts ‘internal processes’ over alleged bursary conflict of interest involving executive’s son

VUT conducts ‘internal processes’ over alleged bursary conflict of interest involving executive’s son
Vaal University of Technology. (Photo: Gallo Images / Sharon Seretlo)

The Vaal University of Technology says it takes conflict of interest claims seriously.

Vaal University of Technology’s (VUT’s) head of corporate communications, Dumile Mlambo, said they took allegations of conflict of interest seriously and where such allegations were made, the university would thoroughly investigate them and take appropriate action if necessary.

Mlambo was speaking following a Daily Maverick report that the son of senior VUT executive Kediemetse Mokotsi received a bursary from De Beers while also receiving funding for staff dependants.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Vaal University of Technology executive faces conflict of interest allegation over son’s bursary

VUT previously said there was nothing wrong with the arrangement, but a former SRC leader described it as a “gross abuse of power and purely conflicted interests”.

Mokotsi, VUT’s acting executive director for advancement, was a “go-to person” between VUT and De Beers when the parties entered into an agreement in 2012, which led to the establishment of the Khula Weekend School (KWS) — a programme that assisted learners in grades 10 to 12 in the fields of science, mathematics, commercial subjects and English.

The KWS programme was extended to assist matriculants to further their studies at universities of their choice.

Mokotsi’s son, Bongani Mokotsi, benefited from the programme. He obtained his National Diploma in Information Technology in 2019 and his Bachelor of Technology (BTech) in 2020.

Between 2016 and 2019, VUT paid him just over R42,000, while De Beers paid him every year between 2016 and 2019, a total of more than R115,000. There is no indication that the funds were used for anything other than his fees at VUT.

“We can confirm that management did apprise the council of the matter in the previous meeting and committed to keep the council informed,” Mlambo said.

VUT, he said, was committed to maintaining a fair, transparent and ethical work environment in all its operations.

Apparent overpayments’

New details have emerged that Bongani Mokotsi may have received more money than that allocated to deserving students through the bursary programme funded by De Beers.

De Beers told Daily Maverick that R20,000 was allocated a year for each student for registration and tuition purposes.

Information that Daily Maverick has seen shows that Bongani received:

  • R30,000 on 20 June 2016;
  • R3,050 on 8 December 2017;
  • R20,000 on 16 November 2017;
  • R22,000 on 19 November 2018;
  • R20,000 on 26 November 2019; and
  • A R20,000 “top-up” on 10 December 2019.

When approached for comment, De Beers spokesperson Jackie Mapiloko referred questions to VUT.

“The KWS has been discontinued by De Beers Group and the employee who facilitated the programme no longer works for the company,” Mapiloko said.

De Beers, she said, has no relationship or contact with VUT and the other tertiary institutions that formed part of the KWS programme.

“As previously mentioned, when liaising with the various tertiary institutions for financial assistance approval, De Beers was not involved in the administration of vetting the learners who would eventually receive funding. The only verification that the company needed was proof of tertiary acceptance and that the qualifying learners were part of the KWS programme,” she said.

Responding to Daily Maverick about overpayments, newly appointed VUT Vice-Chancellor Professor Khehla Ndlovu said: “Unfortunately, at this point, VUT cannot respond until all internal processes as they relate to the matter have been concluded.”

He said Mokotsi continued to discharge her roles and responsibilities as director of marketing and public relations.

Both Mokotsis did not respond to questions about the overpayments. Previously Kediemetse Mokotsi referred queries to VUT and while her legal representation said: “It is furthermore our instructions to demand, as we hereby do, that you respect the rights of our client, and the rights of Mr BN [Bongani Ntokozo] Mokotsi, which rights include, but are limited to, the right of dignity, privacy and reputation. Should you infringe upon any of the aforesaid rights of our client, or the rights of Mr Mokotsi, then our client will approach an appropriate forum for appropriate relief,”

Other universities

Daily Maverick approached other universities to find out whether they had entered into similar agreements with De Beers. Those that responded indicated that they were not part of the KWS programme.

Sol Plaatje University (SPU) spokesperson Kashini Maistry said such funding was sourced through the university’s Department of Institutional Advancement and the administration of bursaries was made by the Financial Aid and Scholarships Office, which is located within the finance division.

She said the allocation of bursaries for staff and their dependents was governed by the Policy on Study Benefits.

“If an employee is found guilty of any misconduct associated with such a benefit, the employee will not only be subject to the disciplinary rules of SPU but will also be held liable for expenses incurred in the granting of this benefit. Any such expenses may also be deducted from any monies due and payable by SPU to the employee,” the policy states.

North-West University spokesperson Louis Jacobs said its legal department approved memoranda of understanding and memoranda of agreements.

Jacobs said any allegation of corruption was investigated in terms of the university’s disciplinary processes and procedures.

He said it was the responsibility of the bursary office to inform external sponsors of any other bursaries received by a student to avoid double-dipping.

University of the Western Cape (UWC) spokesperson Gasant Abarder said appropriate governance structures and policies managed bursaries and scholarships.

“It should be noted that all attendees and committee members attending committee meetings are required to complete a declaration of interest and where there is a conflict of interest the relevant committee member must recuse themselves for that agenda item. This occurs in every committee meeting, not only those related to bursary management,” Abarder said.

He said UWC had a staff rebate policy, which allowed staff and their dependents to study at the university as well as at certain other institutions.

Stellenbosch University spokesperson Martin Viljoen said the university did not permit a student to hold a combination of bursaries that exceeded their cost of attendance for any specific academic year. DM

Gallery

Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Jane Lombard says:

    Thank you, DM, for your reportage on universities. I hope reader can see that much of this is a result of the muscular corporate nature of the modern university (common also in the so-called West). Apart from UFH and UZ degree syndicates, which have led to assassinations, the vast majority of teaching faculty have nothing to do with this rot. Tenders involving transport, catering, accommodation, etc., seem to be the cause. Universities are becoming government outposts (check the apartheid precedent regarding historically black universities). The administrative bloat, where the MBAs in charge prefer to hire more management than lecturers, is hastening this decline. Teaching and research faculty have almost no say in what is going on. May they continue to stick to their knitting until the department wakes up, even while it is tremendously demoralizing.

  • Hy I would like to study with you and be good student

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