UKZN to review admissions policy as medical school cash-for-seats scandal widens

09 August 2017 - 11:37 By Jeff Wicks
Dr Albert Van Jaarsveld.
Dr Albert Van Jaarsveld.
Image: Facebook/University of KwaZulu-Natal

The University of KwaZulu-Natal will review its admission procedures as a cash-for-seats scandal continues to plague the institution of higher learning.

UKZN Vice-chancellor Albert van Jaarsveld said that going forward‚ the university would review its Student Admission Policy and procedures at all its colleges.

“The standard operating procedures will also be scrutinised‚” he said in a statement issued on Tuesday. (The full statement can be read at the bottom of this article).

In May‚ three people‚ including the owners of a popular Indian eatery‚ were alleged to have negotiated bribes and liaised with university staff to enrol prospective students in a cash-for-seats scam. The price of a seat at medical school was believed to be about R500‚000.

The trio were arrested‚ and last week the university conducted a sweeping search and seizure operation‚ confiscating nearly 300 computers and suspending 18 members of staff.

Van Jaarsveld said that the scam may extend through all the university’s colleges‚ and was not only confined to the Faculty of Health Sciences.

“All of the information seized will be thoroughly analysed and any suspects uncovered as a result thereof will face internal disciplinary measures and be simultaneously handed over to the criminal authorities‚” he said.

“In light of the sensitive nature of the investigations‚ the university and its members have been constrained in communicating with the media solely for the purpose of ensuring that the ongoing criminal investigations are in no way compromised‚” Van Jaarsveld added.

UKZN's full‚ unedited statement:

8 August 2017 SEARCH AND SEIZURE OPERATION ON ALL UNIVERSITY CAMPUSES TO CRACK DOWN ON STAFF AND STUDENTS SUSPECTED OF INVOLVEMENT IN THE ADMISSIONS SCAM

A whistleblower was the catalyst in a wholescale and in depth investigation conducted by UKZN which was initiated in June 2016‚ after the University’s Forensics Unit received information that a student has allegedly submitted a fraudulent matric certificate and identity document to gain entry into the MBChB programme. Allegations made included that:

- Students were fraudulently altering their population group on admission documents from Indian to Coloured for the purposes of gaining access into the MBChB programme; and

- Students who did not score high enough percentages in their subjects‚ but still met the minimum requirements‚ were admitted into the MBCHB programme.

As a result of a preliminary internal investigation and submissions received from the SRC‚ UKZN instructed KPMG to carry out an investigation surrounding the admission of students into the MBChB degree. A confidential report was prepared by KPMG recording its findings. This report is now material evidence in the ongoing investigation into the admission fraud.

During the course of August 2016 to January 2017‚ it also came to light that various UKZN staff members‚ who were not employed within UKZN’s College of Health Sciences‚ had unlawfully made repeated attempts to enlist students into the MBChB degree programme by accessing the UKZN online network to make fraudulent offers and confirmation of acceptances to students that had applied to enter the programme.

These fraudulent offers were immediately revoked by UKZN once uncovered and none of the students who received such offers were enrolled into the programme.

During the latter half of January 2017‚ UKZN received information which suggested that a syndicate was in operation and facilitating the fraudulent admission of students into the University’s Medical School. The South African Police Services were immediately notified and requested to investigate the allegations.

UKZN subsequently worked closely with the Hawks and National Prosecuting Authority which led to the arrest of three members of the syndicate on 12 May 2017 whom were identified in fraudulently facilitating the admission of students.

Since 12 May 2017‚ the investigations by the Hawks have been ongoing and UKZN representatives have and continue to work tirelessly to assist the investigation team and NPA to ensure that the perpetrators are brought to book. Whilst the enactments of internal disciplinary proceedings by UKZN were initially suspended on instruction from the NPA‚ these proceedings are now underway and are sanctioned by the NPA. Thus far‚ a number of students and staff members have been found to be complicit in the admissions scam and the numbers are expected to rise as the internal proceedings continue.

The internal investigation into the fraudulent admissions was carried out by the University’s internal Forensic Services Unit and an independent external forensic audit firm had conducted the search and seizure operation involving 286 staff members that could potentially be implicated in the scam.

All of the information seized will be thoroughly analyzed and any suspects uncovered as a result thereof will face internal disciplinary measures and be simultaneously handed over to the criminal authorities.

Going forward‚ and as part of improving its admissions processes and procedures‚ UKZN will review its Student Admission Policy and procedures at all its colleges. Its standard operating procedures will also be scrutinised.

In light of the sensitive nature of the investigations‚ the University and its members have been constrained in communicating with the media solely for the purpose of ensuring that the ongoing criminal investigations are in no way compromised.

UKZN remains categorically steadfast in its commitment to rooting out all forms of corruption. It has and continues to work closely with the Hawks and NPA for the purposes of ensuring that all perpetrators face the full might of the law.

Yesterday (i.e. 7 August 2017) the University Council delegated responsibility for the oversight of this investigation to the Council Executive Committee (EXCO).

 

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