Higher Education Minister appoints Administrator for Walter Sisulu University
2 Nov 2011The Department of Higher Education and Training as part of its responsibility regarding universities, has over the past few years been alerting Walter Sisulu University (WSU) about its deteriorating financial position and impending financial crisis despite receiving unqualified audit reports. The department became aware of WSU’s inability to cope financially in meeting its operational obligations in 2010. Cash flow projections for the 2011 and 2012 financial years indicated that the university would operate on a cash deficit throughout these periods.
In March 2011, the Minister for Higher Education and Training granted approval to WSU to increase its overdraft facility to R 250 million (two hundred and fifty million rand) for the next twelve months and indicated that the university would need to focus on cost-cutting and efficiency measures to ensure financial stability and implement a turnaround strategy.
The department’s assessment in April 2011 revealed a litany of problems which related to poor financial management, poor human resources practices, inadequate/weak information technology systems and poor governance. In May 2011, the Chairperson of the WSU Council formally requested the Minister of Higher Education and Training to intervene with the expressed aim of comprehensively dealing with WSU challenges as many of the problems that were identified in 2007 by the new management still persisted and in many respects were getting worse. The department was also approached by various university stakeholders requesting the Minister to appoint an Administrator.
By June 2011, the university had run out of funds to pay salaries and had utilised its earmarked Infrastructure Grant to pay for the salaries without requesting approval from the department.
After the Minister met with the Council of WSU on 12 July 2011 to discuss the challenges that were leading to the serious problems at the University and the possible need for assistance, the Minister appointed an Independent Assessor. The report of the Independent Assessor, gazetted on 28 September 2011, highlighted serious problems with regards to the governance and financial management of WSU which was undermining the effective functioning of the institution.
On 14 October 2011, the Council of WSU met with the Director-General of Higher Education and Training, Mr. G.F. Qonde, to discuss the findings and recommendations of this report and the inability of the university to meet its obligations in relation to the October 2011 salary payments. The University Council and other stakeholders were given an opportunity to respond to the Independent Assessor’s Report and the Minister’s intention to appoint an Administrator by 19 October 2011.
After careful consideration, as the Minister for Higher Education and Training, I appointed Professor Lourens van Staden as the Administrator for the WSU in terms of Section 41A of the Higher Education Act 101 of 1997 (as amended). Professor van Staden is a distinguished academic with over 27 years’ experience in higher education and currently holds the position of Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Teaching, Learning and Technology at the Tshwane University of Technology.
The terms of reference of the Administrator, amongst others will be:
- To take over the authority of the Council of Walter Sisulu University for an initial period not exceeding 24 months.
- To take over the management of the University, and to steer the University back to operational and financial viability. This will include the strengthening of structures, systems and policies that will ensure good governance and the restoration of the culture of teaching and learning and academic integrity at the University.
- To carry out a forensic audit of the institution in order to identify any corrupt practices and to institute appropriate action within the prescripts of the law, including implementing any action required by investigations, forensic audits or other audits performed prior to administration.
- To initiate the appointment of a new Council at the Walter Sisulu University, including the establishment of necessary Council sub-committees and the drafting and submission to the Minister of Higher Education and Training, of a new statute for the University.
The Administrator has commenced duty on 31 October 2011.
The department acknowledges the sacrifices and collective efforts of the WSU stakeholder community in ensuring that the interest of the university remains central to the process of rebuilding Walter Sisulu University whilst maintaining normal operations and providing quality university education.
Tel: 012 312 6350
Cell: 082 705 9457
Issued by: Department of Higher Education and Training
2 Nov 2011
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