The department of higher education and training has told The Citizen that the University of Zululand (Unizulu) must account for how R4.5 million allocated towards damages caused during #FeesMustFall protests was spent.
The Citizen this week reported how, despite writing in two successful annual reports that the institution was the only one in the country not to experience the wave of protests in 2015 and 2016, it still received an allocation from the department towards repairing damages supposedly caused by striking students.
In a parliamentary response provided to a question posed by the DA’s Belinda Bozzoli, the minister of higher education and training disclosed that more than R40 million had been budgeted for and from that amount Unizulu was to receive R4.5 million.
However, both the narrative and audited financial audited statements released by the institution for the 2015/16 financial year are silent on the matter, an indication the money may have been misappropriated by Unizulu.
The departmental spokesperson, Madikwe Mabotha, confirmed to The Citizen that the amount was allocated towards Unizulu “to assist with reported damages to the West Dining Hall and East Recreation Centre that occurred during 2015 due to student protest action”.
The department denied any conspiracy to commit fraud and insisted that the amount was allocated as per a damages claim from the university.
“The department made the funds available to the university for the reported damages and it is expected that these funds are reflected in the 2016 financial audited statements of the institution,” Mabotha wrote.
Mabotha admitted that, as things stand, they have no idea how the R4.5 million was actually used in the wake of the institution itself admitting that there were no protests on any of its campuses and there were therefore no likely damages.
“The university will need to provide the information in this regard,” said Mabotha.
The department also conceded that it was slightly odd that, despite receiving the money, the institution seemed to have failed to report about it. Mabotha wrote that “the funds should be accounted for in their 2016 financial audited statements”.
The department, however, refused to be drawn into whether the external auditors at the institution ought to have picked up the payment as an irregularity, saying “the department, as part of its oversight role, is still in the process of analysing the 2016 financial statements and annual reports of all 26 public universities, which includes UniZulu”.