Secret KPMG report finds irregularities at UKZN med school

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The University of KwaZulu-Natal’s Nelson R Mandela School of Medicine failed to implement its quota policy, blocking deserving youngsters from becoming doctors, found a KPMG report that has been kept secret by the university.

Also, says a Sunday Tribune report, some students were also wrongly given a place “due to an IT system error” that could have been manually manipulated.

The report says these were among conclusions of a report by auditing firm KPMG that was handed to the university’s vice-chancellor Dr Albert van Jaarsveld in November but kept from public view. The report was requested by the Sunday Tribune through a Promotion of Access to Information Act application but leaked before this was processed.

The report says KPMG’S investigation focus was to examine allegations of bribery and corruption in the sale of places at the Nelson R Mandela School of Medicine, in Durban. It found deserving students were denied places because of an IT student database error and school quintile ranking errors. In terms of school rankings, places are reserved for pupils from Quintile 1, 2 and 3 schools (poor schools).

It also found: “There are unidentified people who have been accessing the system and ‘regretting’ applicants.”

The investigators could not prove bribery allegations as they did not have access to UKZN employees’ bank accounts. KPMG interviewed three of the implicated officials who said they had never received payment to manipulate the admission process. The firm also conducted digital searches of their hard-drives and emails.
The report looked at whether Indian students had intentionally misrepresented their race and claimed to be “coloured” to slip through the quota system and secure a place. KPMG was asked to verify eight students whose race was under scrutiny. “We interviewed six students who all confirmed they had applied as coloured students, they signed the relative forms and reaffirmed the interviewees that they were coloured. The Department of Home Affairs does not keep a record of a person’s race against which we could verify this,” the report said. It said two students could not be interviewed due to protest action at the university.

The report highlighted that some coloured students, who applied last year, were denied places, despite being higher ranked applicants.

“The rejection of coloured students, who were otherwise deserving of a place on the MBCHB (Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery), acts contrary to the medical school’s policy,” the report said.

The quota allows for 69% black African, 19% Indian, 9% coloured, 2% white and 1% other.

The report questioned how a student who was admitted, but had not completed his Mbchb degree, was practising at a KZN hospital. It recommended the university take action against the student with the help of the Health Professions Council of SA and the police.

When the Sunday Tribune asked for the report, van Jaarsveld issued a statement saying: “University management received the findings of the KPMG report. Following a review process, new matters were raised and a subsequent investigation into these matters is now under way. The university will communicate on the public release of the report at a later stage.”

The report says the KPMG probe came after a whistle-blower sent a report to van Jaarsveld claiming some employees responsible for admissions at the medical school had requested or were offered bribes to facilitate entry for “wealthy Indian” students.

Last week van Jaarsveld told a parliamentary portfolio committee the Hawks had been brought in because of the “seriousness” of the issue. However, the Hawks said it “knew nothing” about the investigation. The university failed to answer questions regarding the Hawks investigation or to provide a case number so the investigation could be confirmed.

Van Jaarsveld told the committee he would be “cleaning house” once the investigation was completed. He said the university would get to the bottom of the issue and it looked like “there are a lot of people who are involved.”

The report said this year, the medical school received 6,945 applications for 250 places. The lowest weighted academic average or threshold for Indian applicants was 90.86% and 75.5% for coloured students. White students had to achieve 87.66% for a place and black African students 83.16%.

Sunday Tribune report

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