Nzimande cracks whip on university tenders

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Cape Town - University council members will now be barred from entering into any tender process or doing business with the universities they serve, Higher Education and Training Minister Blade Nzimande said on Thursday.

The decision followed revelations of evidence linking some council members, including leaders of Student Representative Councils, to conflict of interest practices in the awarding of tenders.

Speaking ahead of his budget vote address, Nzimande refused to divulge the names of the institutions implicated or say how widespread the problem was.

"This is something we are picking up and we have to do something about it. We are concerned that unless we do something about this scourge of corruption all the resources we are putting to these institutions will be wasted," Nzimande said.

Council members will be prevented from doing business at the universities they serve. There will also be a management review of tender procedures at all universities across the country.

Meanwhile, Nzimande said his department is working on a plan to review the work of all Sector Education and Training Authorities (SETAs) to make them more effective.

SETAs are an important partner in the higher education sector and thousands of people use SETAs to gain skills that later help them secure employment. He hinted at plans to reduce the number of SETAs thus getting rid of some.

The Auditor General had found recently that some SETAs were failing to adhere to acceptable financial controls but Nzimande commended at least 19 of the 23 SETAs for getting a clean bill of health from the AG's office.

He said he will be taking a special interest to use SETAs to train more artisans this year. South Africa is said to be among the countries with a serious shortage of artisans. Industry figures predicted the demand for skilled artisans to be more than 30 000 while the need for semi-skilled labour was also on the increase.

"We will increase the number and the quality of skilled artisans, particularly in priority trade through a synergy of strengthening colleges, SETA work and business initiatives".

A key priority will be to expand access to structured work place learning and partnerships to address artisan skill scarcity.

During 2009, the SETAs registered 17 228 artisans in training and 109 351 workers completed training in scarce skills through learnerships, apprenticeships and learning programme. Nzimande has set a target of 19 288 artisans in training and 145 899 workers completing training by the end of the year.