Varsity execs face the axe
■ UJ pair facing prosecution ■ Accused of R30m swindle
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.