TVET governors' council set to face off against higher education minister
The council that oversees the smooth running of SA's 50 technical & vocational education & training (TVET) colleges is set to face off against higher education minister Naledi Pandor over her department's failure to appoint council members at colleges.
The TVET governors' council claims 21 colleges in Gauteng, Mpumalanga, North West, the Northern Cape and the Western Cape have not had quorate councils since October. The terms of the other 29 TVET colleges in the Eastern Cape, Limpopo, KwaZulu-Natal and the Free State are due to come to an end shortly. The colleges have a combined budget of more than R12bn, managed by their councils.
TVET councils consist of the principal, five external people appointed by the minister, one member of the academic staff and two students elected by the student representative council. To make a quorum, at least three people appointed by the department must be present.
A letter by the department's acting deputy director-general, Aruna Singh, to the governors' council, seen by the Sunday Times, states that decisions can be made if at least one appointed council member is present. He says those decisions would then be ratified when fully constituted councils are appointed.
In a series of letters to Pandor, the governors' council pleads with the department to extend the councils' terms for another year while the department is looking for replacements.
Advocate Xolile Xuma, the governors' council's secretary-general, said legal action was their last resort.
"How are these councils going to account for the more than R12bn in budgets when they don't have functional councils?"
He said no provision was made to avoid total collapse of governance should the minister not make appointments in time, despite this concern being raised by the council at the early stages of the process at both the department and the ministry.
A letter sent to Pandor by Horn & Van Rensburg, attorneys on behalf of the council, states the intent to take her to court.
The governors' council then proposes that council members at all 50 TVET colleges as at October 2018 be either reappointed or their term extended until March 31 next year. It proposes that the current process of appointments be terminated immediately.
Xuma said the process in which the department allowed TVET principals to nominate council member candidates was against principles of good governance, given the oversight role of the councils.
However, ministry of higher education spokesman Lunga Ngqengelele played down the issue, saying the department was ready to fill vacant posts. "There will be no dysfunctional institution," he said.
But he admitted that the councils at the 29 colleges were operating without a full complement. He said the term of 10 councils - three in Mpumalanga, six in the Western Cape and one in Gauteng - expired at the end of March.
"The department has received and processed nominations from persons who expressed an interest to serve in councils."
He said the term of office for the other 11 colleges in Gauteng, North West, and the Northern Cape ended in April and recommended nominees be appointed effective from May 1. "There is no reason to assume there will be no councils when the terms of office expire."