Public protector finds against varsity bosses

Limpopo University vice-chancellor Mahlo Mokgalong could face a disciplinary hearing, as per public protector's recommendation. /SANDILE NDLOVU
Limpopo University vice-chancellor Mahlo Mokgalong could face a disciplinary hearing, as per public protector's recommendation. /SANDILE NDLOVU

Public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane has called for action against a University of Limpopo vice-chancellor and two other officials for improperly altering its medical school curriculum.

As part of her remedial action, Mkhwebane ordered the university to take disciplinary steps against vice-chancellor Professor Mahlo Mokgalong, quality assurance officer Dr Abby Ngoepe and Nonceba Mbambo-Kekana, executive dean for the faculty of health sciences.

The trio is accused of exposing the university to de-accreditation of its Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery (MBChB) programme.

Mkhwebane found that Mokgalong, Ngoepe and Mbambo-Kekana improperly introduced and implemented an altered curriculum.

This was after the university appointed Dinamik Institute for the formulation of the MBChB curriculum in February 2014.

"The university improperly deviated and implemented an MBChB curriculum at its School of Medicine in 2016 which was not the same as the one approved by the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) in 2014."

She found the university did not follow an open tender process when it appointed the institute or obtain three quotation from other service providers as per its procurement policy requirement.

"The university management was not supposed on its own and without approval of the HPCSA as a statutory and regulatory body deviate from approved medical academic programme and to have submitted the same to the Council of High Education [CHE]."

University acting spokesman Johannes Selepe said it was going to comply with the public protector's remedial actions.

Mkhwebane said the university couldn't provide her office with copies of the contracts or service level agreement entered into between the university and Dinamik Institute.

The university paid Dinamik Institute a total of R2.3-million for services rendered.

"Both Ngoepe and Mbambo- Kekana played a major role in the appointment process of Dinamik Institute.

"In the case of Dr Ngoepe, Dinamik deposited an amount of R25000 into his account in 2015," she said.

She said the payment of over R2-million constituted an irregular and fruitless expenditure as no proper procurement process was followed for the appointment of the service provider and no value for money was received from Dinamik.

Mkhwebane found that Mbambo-Kekena was the co-founder of Dinamik Institute between 2001 and 2002 until her resignation.

"She didn't disclose this conflict of interest to the university management. Her conduct amounts to improper conduct and maladministration."

Ngoepe said he was still studying the public protector's report.

Mkhwebane said the students on a non-HPCSA-approved programme were subjected to the risk of not being able to register or practise as medical doctors.

In 2016, the CHE withdrew the accreditation of the programme after it failed to comply and students had to be temporarily registered with the University of Pretoria.