Var­sity ex­ecs face the axe

■ UJ pair fac­ing pros­e­cu­tion ■ Ac­cused of R30m swin­dle

The Sunday Independent - - FRONT PAGE - LEBOGANG SEALE

TWO se­nior man­agers at the Univer­sity of Jo­han­nes­burg (UJ) ac­cused of si­phon­ing off mil­lions from the univer­sity and al­legedly chan­nelling the monies into their pri­vate busi­ness now face crim­i­nal pros­e­cu­tion.

UJ chair­per­son of coun­cil Pro­fes­sor Roy Mar­cus and the deputy vice-chan­cel­lor of fi­nance, Jaco van Schoor, will also have to re­pay about R30 mil­lion to the univer­sity, The Sun­day In­de­pen­dent can re­veal.

The im­pend­ing ac­tions are part of the rec­om­men­da­tions of forensic in­ves­ti­ga­tion draft re­port into the al­leged fraud in­volv­ing the pair, which was pre­sented to the univer­sity’s special coun­cil meet­ing on Fri­day. The Sun­day In­de­pen­dent re­ported in July that the two were sus­pended with pay af­ter it emerged that they had al­legedly swin­dled the univer­sity of about R25m. ( The amount has since in­creased to about R30m).

A whis­tle-blower lifted the lid on the al­leged fraud, prompt­ing UJ to launch a two-pronged probe, an in­ter­nal and an external forensic in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

Au­dit­ing firm SizweNt­saluba Go­bodo was com­mis­sioned to con­duct the forensic probe. At the cen­tre of the al­le­ga­tions was that Mar­cus and Van Schoor used UJ com­pa­nies to per­son­ally ben­e­fit from some con­tracts for the in­stal­la­tion of so­lar gey­sers.

The gey­sers were meant to be in­stalled on univer­sity premises and res­i­dences, and PTiP In­no­va­tions, one of the UJ-owned firms, was among those tasked with the job.

Mar­cus and Van Schoor al­legedly abused their ex­ec­u­tive pow­ers by chan­nelling some of the funds from the pro­ject into In­no­va­tive In­vest­ment Cor­po­ra­tion (IIC), a Sand­ton-based com­pany they hold shares in. The pair, who are listed among the firm’s only four direc­tors, had ap­par­ently not de­clared their stake in the firm to the univer­sity.

They will now have to an­swer be­fore the courts af­ter the in­ves­ti­ga­tion found a prima fa­cie case against them.

“The re­port is damn­ing as it found suf­fi­cient ev­i­dence that they de­frauded and mis­led the univer­sity,” said a mem­ber of UJ coun­cil.

A cor­re­spon­dence cir­cu­lated to UJ staff and stu­dents late on Fri­day also in­di­cated that the draft re­port into the al­le­ga­tions was damn­ing as it found that “there may have been some ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties within its (the univer­sity’s) com­mer­cial­i­sa­tion do­main”.

“Hav­ing con­sid­ered the draft re­port, coun­cil con­cluded that the ac­tions of the chair of coun­cil Pro­fes­sor Roy Mar­cus and the deputy vice-chan­cel­lor: fi­nance, Mr Jaco van Schoor, may have con­tra­vened cer­tain le­gal pro­vi­sions, eth­i­cal obli­ga­tions, or both,” the state­ment reads.

“Coun­cil is com­mit­ted to con­clud­ing the mat­ter as soon as pos­si­ble hav­ing re­gard to due process in re­spect of the con­cerned par­ties and good gov­er­nance.”

How­ever, The Sun­day In­de­pen­dent un­der­stands that the state­ment was toned down, as it does not in­clude the rec­om­men­da­tions that crim­i­nal charges be laid against the pair, that they pay back the monies they are ac­cused of de­fraud­ing the univer­sity of and that they be sub­jected to a dis­ci­plinary hear­ing.

UJ spokesper­son Her­man Ester­huizen would nei­ther con­firm nor deny these rec­om­men­da­tions, only say­ing “the coun­cil did re­ceive the forensic in­ves­ti­ga­tion draft re­port and is cur­rently study­ing the re­port as well a the re­port’s rec­om­men­da­tions”.

He added that the univer­sity “views all al­le­ga­tions of fraud and cor­rup­tion in a se­ri­ous light and that coun­cil was com­mit­ted to con­clud­ing the mat­ter as soon as pos­si­ble”.

Con­tacted for com­ment yester- day, Mar­cus threat­ened this pub­li­ca­tion and asked that the story be held un­til next week as “there is no press­ing pub­lic interest to pub­lish these al­le­ga­tions (today)”. He de­nied the al­le­ga­tions against him. (See Page 2.)

Van Schoor said he could not com­ment on the al­le­ga­tions against him at this point.

The pair ap­par­ently re­quested to meet coun­cil be­fore the re­port was pre­sented be­fore coun­cil, but this did not hap­pen.

A univer­sity source said: “As the univer­sity, we have worked hard to build a rep­utable univer­sity founded on aca­demic and re­search ex­cel­lence, and we can­not al­low our brand to be tar­nished by acts of cor­rup­tion, es­pe­cially by those en­trusted with up­hold­ing the high­est stan­dards of gov­er­nance and ethics.”

The Sun­day In­de­pen­dent has re­li­ably learnt that the univer­sity coun­cil will meet this week to re­view the re­port, with the view of im­ple­ment­ing the rec­om­men­da­tions.

Spokesper­son for the Depart­ment of Higher Ed­u­ca­tion and Train­ing, Madikwe Mabotha, praised UJ for the way it has dealt with the al­le­ga­tions.

“We re­ally have to com­mend the univer­sity for the swift man­ner in which it has dealt with the al­le­ga­tions,” Mabotha said.

“We hope the univer­sity will be able to im­ple­ment the rec­om­men­da­tions and en­sure that the money is re­couped and that those im­pli­cated face the wrath of the law,” he added.

“That money should have gone to needy stu­dents. This should be a les­son to other uni­ver­si­ties to deal with acts of cor­rup­tion and that those en­trusted with pub­lic funds should be held ac­count­able.”

At the time that Mar­cus and Van Schoor were sus­pended, an in­sider privy to the in­ves­ti­ga­tions said: “There was a break­down of gov­er­nance, and peo­ple over­stepped their man­date.

“There was a pos­si­bil­ity of vested interest and/or con­flict of interest.

“There ( was a) trans­fer of money from UJ com­pa­nies to pri­vate in­di­vid­u­als as if they had done busi­ness with the com­pa­nies, but no ser­vices were ren­dered.

“There was col­lu­sion with IIC… What is even worse is that the two in­di­vid­u­als con­cerned sit on the board of IIC.

They didn’t even de­clare this com­pany that they used to siphon (UJ),” said an­other source.

I con­firm hav­ing re­ceived a let­ter from the univer­sity last night in­form­ing me that they now have the fi­nal re­port on the forensic in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

To date, I have not seen the re­port and am await­ing in­for­ma­tion from the univer­sity to fur­nish de­tails.

I have given my full co-op­er­a­tion in the in­ves­ti­ga­tion and made de­tailed oral and writ­ten sub­mis­sions to the forensic au­di­tors, SizweNt­salubaGo­bodo (SNG).

I have twice asked them to give me an op­por­tu­nity to re­spond to any­thing that may seem to con­tra­dict what I have told them. This has not hap­pened. I am ad­vised that for the univer­sity to have con­cluded its in­ves­ti­ga­tion un­der these cir­cum­stances is fun­da­men­tally un­fair and I will seek le­gal ad­vice in this re­gard.

I again cat­e­gor­i­cally deny ever hav­ing de­frauded the univer­sity or com­mit­ted any wrong­do­ing and wish to make it clear that all my ac­tions with re­gards to com­mer­cial­i­sa­tion of univer­sity in­tel­lec­tual prop­erty was con­ducted with the in­tent of en­sur­ing that the univer­sity would ben­e­fit, par­tic­u­larly in light of the se­ri­ous fi­nan­cial dif­fi­cul­ties all uni­ver­si­ties are fac­ing.

I can also con­firm that the vice-chan­cel­lor Ihron Rens­burg has been kept abreast of all com­mer­cial­i­sa­tion in which I pro­vided sup­port, and to this end, I have fur­nished the SNG with de­tailed doc­u­men­ta­tion to this ef­fect.

Jaco van Schoor

It would be in­ap­pro­pri­ate for me to an­swer is­sues and/or al­le­ga­tions which have as yet not been for­mally placed be­fore me. As yet, I am await­ing the de­tail is­sues, where­after I will be in a po­si­tion to for­mally re­spond should it be nec­es­sary or ap­pro­pri­ate.

As a con­se­quence, I can­not at this point in time com­ment (on) the mer­its of the mat­ter or any al­le­ga­tions made.

IN HOTWATER: Prof Roy Mar­cus, above, and deputy vice-chan­cel­lor of fi­nance Jaco van Schoor.

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