Leaked Unisa report worrying – Committee

Will not act outside the legislation passed by Parliament by considering a report released in this way

Portfolio Committee on Higher Education, Science and Innovation concerned by leaked Unisa report

22 May 2023

The Portfolio Committee on Higher Education, Science and Innovation has received many inquiries from the media and other stakeholders about the leaked Independent Assessor’s Report on the University of South Africa (UNISA). The committee understands the interest the report has generated.

In 2022, the committee had two briefings with the department on 23 February and 16 November 2022 to discuss governance challenges at UNISA. On 23 February, the committee convened a meeting with the department to receive a briefing on the work of various ministerial task teams (MTTs), including a report on the work of the MTT established at UNISA to conduct an independent review.

The department shared the findings and recommendations of this independent review and also indicated that the Minister was considering a report from this independent review. At the time of the meeting, the department said that consultations with the university’s Council on the report were underway and that the report had not yet been presented to Cabinet. It was also noted that the Minister would consider the report in considering what action ought to be taken to bring stability to UNISA.

In the November 2022 meeting, the department provided an update on governance-related matters at the Mangosuthu University of Technology, UNISA, the University of Cape Town and the Vaal University of Technology. The department also updated the committee on the UNISA MTT and the outcomes of the ministerial consideration of its independent report.

The committee was informed that after due consideration of the report and enganing with the UNISA Council, the Minister decided to appoint an independent assessor (IA), Professor Themba Mosia, to conduct an investigation. The IA’s appointment and terms of reference were published in Gazette 46904, dated 13 September 2022. The committee welcomed the IA’s appointment to investigate UNISA’s affairs, as this would enable the Minster to take the necessary steps to stabilise the institution and ensure it focuses on its core mandate, which is teaching and learning, research and community engagement.

In terms of Section 47 (1A)(2) of the Higher Education Act, 1997 (Act No. 101 of 1997, as amended), the Minister must within 90 days of receiving the report, provide a copy of the report to the university council concerned, table the report before the National Assembly and publish that report in the Gazette. The IA report was submitted to the Minister on 31 March 2023.

The Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Science and Innovation, Ms Nompendulo Mkhatshwa, said: “The committee notes the urgency to consider the IA report. However, it will not act outside the legislation passed by Parliament by considering a leaked report. We request the interested parties allow the legal processes to unfold. After the report is tabled before the National Assembly (NA), the Speaker will refer it to the committee for consideration, in terms of the Rules of the National Assembly.”

The committee is gravely concerned that the MTT Independent Review Report on UNISA and the Independent Assessor Report on UNISA were leaked before due processes are finalised. We call upon those involved in this to refrain from such practice.

Ms Mkhatshwa indicated that UNISA’s governance challenges have caused the committee some concern. “Through our oversight functions we have brought the department and the institution to account on challenges. We anticipated that the IA work will be finalised and tabled before the NA during this term. Hence we included a briefing on the state of governance at various institutions, including UNISA, as we developed this current term programme. This will include an update on the implementation of the MTT recommendations and the outcomes of the work of the IA. We are scheduled to receive a briefing from the department before the end of June.”

Issued by Jabulani Majozi, Media Officer, Parliamentary Communication Services, 22 May 2023