Varsity crippled by fraud scandal

Students at Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University were in a meeting over the alleged mismanagement of funds.
Students at Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University were in a meeting over the alleged mismanagement of funds.

Allegations of mismanagement of funds have forced the shutdown of Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University in GaRankuwa, Pretoria North, for a third week running.

Yesterday, a meeting between students and the university's vice-chancellor, Professor Chris de Beer, ended abruptly after students accused him of refusing to suspend those implicated in the scandal.

Students have accused the university's management of protecting people who allegedly embezzled at least R130-million meant for the refurbishment of buildings, some of which are already falling apart.

De Beers attempted to respond to students' demands by mapping out how the issues were being dealt with.

He said the university senate met on Friday and expressed its deep concern regarding the suspension of the academic programme for such a long period.

He said the senate indicated that it seems to already justify the early closure of the university and the postponement of mid-year exams until the next semester.

"Such action will have a major impact on students attending blocks as they have to meet a minimum threshold regarding clinical procedures," he said.

De Beers said management noted with great concern the persisting reports and assertions with regard to alleged irregularities and corruption on internally and externally managed projects.

"Council therefore approved and mandated the vice-chancellor to commission and approve a forensic audit in consultation with the executive director of finance. The audit must commence immediately," De Beers said.

Protesting students said the closure of the university has affected them negatively and could lead to them failing to complete some of their training.

Student Representative Council (SRC) president Phuthi Phukubje said students want to go back to classes but the university needed to suspend those who were involved in the mismanagement of funds.

"We understand that students who are supposed to complete their blocks are much more affected by the protests," Phukubje said.

"These students will not be able to do their healthcare community service so that they can be able to complete the required hours."

He said students would not go back to class until the individuals who had been pointed out in the alleged mismanagement of funds had been suspended or placed on special leave.

"We have been having a peaceful protest for two weeks and we don't understand why the university suspended academic programmes.

"It is not illegal to ask the university to suspend those who are misusing the university funds," Phukubje said.