Auditor General’s final management report: Minister Blade Nzimande’s political directives resulted in massive irregular expenditure for the DHET and SETAs
20 January 2021
Dear Mr President
1. In the latter part of 2020, we wrote to you several times with various detailed allegations around the direct interference of the political head of the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET), the Minister of Higher Education, Science and Technology, Dr Blade Nzimande, in that department’s administration and some tertiary institutions, as well as the Service Sector Education and Training Authorities (SETAs).
2. The Auditor General’s final management report for the DHET of 31 March 2020, as released on 15 September 2020, (relevant extracts annexed as A) now gives credence to many of the warnings in our various correspondence to you, which you have, to date, chosen to ignore – aside from your Parliamentary Counsellor, Dr Gerhard Koornhof’s response on 3 November 2020.
3. In particular we wish to draw your attention to the Auditor General’s report, which states that:
3.1. Six appointments were not in line with public service regulations and has ordered that the DHET must ensure that any employee related costs towards those officials are disclosed as irregular expenditure.
3.2. The appointment process followed for chairpersons of the accounting authorities for various SETAs was not compliant with the requirements of the Skills Development Act and this non-compliance will result in the SETAs incurring irregular expenditure.
3.3. The appointment process followed for the appointment of members of the accounting authority for various SETAs was not compliant with the requirements of the Skills Development Act and this non-compliance will result in the SETAs incurring irregular expenditure.
4. Mr President, there is no denying that you were made aware of pending disaster. In our letter of 10 September 2020 , we had explained the allegation that some of the appointments, referred to in paragraph 3.1, were directed by Minister Nzimande in favour of some South African Communist Party favourites. We had also reported to you Minister Nzimande’s alleged direct interference in the appointment of the SETAs’ board members and chairpersons on 24 August 2020 .
5. To further illustrate the sad state of affairs, the most recent of Minister Nzimande’s autocratic edicts was made when we had submitted a Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA) application to the DHET in December 2020. Considering with whom we are dealing, it should not have been a surprise to be unceremoniously “…advised that by the instruction from the Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation, we are unable to furnish you with the petitioned information” and we were given no reason at all for this refusal as is required by the Act.
Ordinarily initial decisions regarding PAIA applications reside with an information officer, but we found it telling that Minister Nzimande involved himself in this particular PAIA application off the bat. He even did so prematurely and in doing so Minister Nzimande has effectively negated our right to appeal the decision. Why secrete the information we had requested to start off with, if he has nothing to hide?
6. Mr President, the constitution of the Republic of South Africa in simple language states that “The President appoints the Deputy President and Ministers, assigns their powers and functions, and may dismiss them.” You have been given these powers and are trusted with them, and the buck stops with you.
7. The chickens have come home to roost and the Auditor General’s report is incontrovertible proof that Minister Nzimande’s management of the DHET leaves much to be desired. Given the information that we have provided you with in the past, coupled with the Auditor General’s damning report, it is now incumbent upon you to act.
8. The Auditor General’s findings are significant and inescapable, therefore any advice that we should approach other channels and institutions (such as the Public Service Commission, the National Prosecuting Authority, the police, the Public Protector, etc.) to deal with the allegations around Minister Nzimande is no longer compelling.
9. Mr President, you have made a commitment to South Africans to eradicate corruption in government and we support you in this endeavour. Given your undertaking, the allegations surrounding Minister Nzimande that laws, rules and regulations are being flouted with impunity cannot be ignored.
Issued by Bantu Holomisa, President of the United Democratic Movement, 20 January 2021