The University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) spent more than R73.5m on an investigation into the irregular admission of students at its Nelson R Mandela School of Medicine, it has revealed, in compliance with a court order.
News24 reports that the investigation, dubbed “Operation Clever”, was commissioned to investigate the alleged irregular admission of prospective students, the sale of exam papers, tampering with academic records, changing of marks and the irregular provision of student accommodation, among other accusations.
The report said businessman and businessman and anti-corruption activist Visham Panday filed an application under the Promotion of Access to Information Act, which was turned down by UKZN, to access the details of the investigation. Among the requested information was the cost of the investigation.
“That application was opposed by UKZN for reasons fully set out in the papers before the court. It was essential in UKZN’s view, supported by the SAPS, to protect the integrity of the investigation as disclosure of all information and reports requested would compromise it,” the university’s spokesperson, Normah Zondo, is quoted by News24 as saying.
The court ordered that four aspects pertinent to the investigation be disclosed to Panday, said Zondo.
“UKZN will accede to the court ruling and not make any endeavour to appeal it. This is because that information will not compromise the integrity of the investigation, and because as an institution, UKZN is and has always been committed to transparency and accountability,” Zondo said.
The total cost of the investigation to date is R73,560,829, Zondo said, which included security to protect the evidence in the investigation, forensic specialists, covert operations and security for the investigator.
She said Panday had applied to the court to grant him access to seven areas of the investigation, including the release of the report.
“The court refused to grant all of the relief he had sought. Against that background, UKZN wishes to set out the following in light of the negative, and often incorrect, reporting of this matter in the press,” Zondo said in an IoL report.
“The KPMG report, commissioned in 2016 by previous vice-chancellor and principal Dr Albert Van Jaarsveld, focused on allegations of corruption involving admissions to the Nelson Mandela School of Medicine, as well as colleges and university operations.
“The University at the time uncovered a criminal syndicate working together with a small number of UKZN employees to admit students to the medical school. The internal investigation was concluded, and the matter was handed over to the State criminal prosecuting authorities in 2017, including the Hawks, for further investigation and possible criminal prosecution.
“Criminal prosecutions are not within the powers of UKZN. Whilst UKZN is in fact extremely keen to expose those involved in corruption, and it has done so to the extent that it can internally, it must await the outcome and decisions of the SAPS and prosecuting authorities regarding any criminal prosecutions. As was pointed out by the Judge himself, any request for a written report into Operation Clever is premature.”
The cost of the investigation to date is R73 560 829.00, which comprises: Security services to preserve and protect evidence pertinent to the investigation; security services to protect the investigator, including accommodation at a safe house; necessary “covert operations”; and forensic specialists.
Full News24 report (Open access)
Full IoL report (Open access)
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