R73.5m to investigate irregula

Image:Facebook – University of KwaZulu-Natal

R73.5m to investigate irregular admissions at UKZN’s Nelson Mandela School of Medicine

The investigation, dubbed “Operation Clever,” was launched to probe the alleged irregular admission of prospective students, the sale of exam papers, tampering with academic records, and the altering of marks, among the accusations.

R73.5m to investigate irregula

Image:Facebook – University of KwaZulu-Natal

The University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) spent more than R73.5m on an investigation into, amongst other claims, the irregular admission of students at its Nelson R Mandela School of Medicine, the University has revealed in compliance with a court order.

TSA reported last month that businessman and anti-corruption crusader Visham Panday filed an application under the Promotion of Access to Information Act –turned down by UKZN – to access the details of the investigation.

Among the requested information was the cost of the investigation.

“That application was opposed by UKZN for reasons fully set out in the papers before the court,” said UKZN spokesperson Normah Zondo.

“It was essential in UKZN’s view, supported by the SAPS, to protect the integrity of the investigation as disclosure of all information and reports requested would compromise it.”

Court rules otherwise

The court ordered that four aspects pertinent to the investigation be disclosed to Panday, said Zondo.

“UKZN will accede to the court ruling and not make any endeavour to appeal it. This is because that information will not compromise the integrity of the investigation, and because as an institution, UKZN is and has always been committed to transparency and accountability.”

The total cost of the investigation to date is R73,560,829, Zondo said, which included security to protect the evidence in the investigation, forensic specialists, covert operations, and security for the investigator.

She added that Panday had applied to the court to grant him access to seven areas of the investigation, including the release of the report.

“The court refused to grant all of the relief he had sought,” Zondo said.

Criminal network

“The KPMG report, commissioned in 2016 by previous vice-chancellor and principal Dr. Albert Van Jaarsveld, focused on allegations of corruption involving admissions to the Nelson Mandela School of Medicine, as well as colleges and university operations.”

“The University at the time uncovered a criminal syndicate working together with a small number of UKZN employees to admit students to the medical school. The internal investigation was concluded, and the matter was handed over to the State criminal prosecuting authorities in 2017, including the Hawks, for further investigation and possible criminal prosecution.”

“Criminal prosecutions are not within the powers of UKZN,” Zondo pointed out, adding that whilst UKZN is in fact extremely keen to expose those involved in corruption, and it has done so to the extent that it can internally, “it must await the outcome and decisions of the SAPS and prosecuting authorities regarding any criminal prosecutions. As was pointed out by the Judge himself, any request for a written report into Operation Clever is premature.”

Former lead ‘Operation Clever’ investigator arrested

On Feb. 3, a senior UKZN staffer who was once the lead investigator into the sale of placements at its medical school was arrested for defeating the ends of justice.

Avril Sahadew (43), a forensic audit specialist, was supposed to appear before the Pinetown Magistrate‘s Court last Thursday but was unable to after testing positive for COVID-19, her lawyer told the court, the Sunday Tribune reported.

Sahadew led the ‘Operation Clever’ investigation which has dragged on for four years without anyone being charged or prosecuted.

However, Sahadew was removed from the investigation in 2019, apparently, after a staff member laid a criminal charge against her.

Police spokesperson, Colonel Thembeka Mbele confirmed that charges of crimen injuria, kidnapping, and defeating the ends of justice were being investigated by the Westville SAPS. 

It is alleged that Sahadew victimised one of the staff members and locked him in her office for probing a case ‘linked’ to her.