Institution insists Professor Puleng LenkaBula was unhappy with the high costs, convinced that the renovations didn’t warrant the exorbitant amounts incurred, and required formal investigations
HIGHER Education, Science and Technology Minister Dr Blade Nzimande has revealed that renovations to Unisa vice-chancellor Professor Puleng LenkaBula’s official residence cost the institution over R2 million.
And now the DA is demanding the itemised billing for the project and the service providers involved in renovating the Cloghreen residence in Tshwane.
Nzimande revealed details of the expenditure in response to DA MP Chantel King’s questions in the National Assembly.
”The university was requested to respond and the total cost for the Cloghreen renovations amounted to R2,050,842. This includes kitchen upgrades, floors, walls, electrical, plumbing and wet works. The total budgeted amount was R2,031,869,” Nzimande said.
According to the minister, his department did not budget for the Unisa vice-chancellor’s house renovations.
In his explanation, Nzimande said the department allocates funds to universities through the block and earmarked grants, which are outlined in his ministerial statement every year.
”University budgets are approved by their councils, who have the decision-making responsibility on budgeting issues. The block grant funding is discretionary, and guided by the university’s own budget processes.
“The earmarked grants are subject to specific reporting requirements, including the infrastructure and efficiency grant where the funds benefit the greater university community,” he said.
King expressed her dismay at the exorbitant spending on the renovations considering all the challenges facing Unisa.
”It is an insult to all the students battling to register online,” she said.
King told Independent Media that the official opposition was planning to ask follow-up questions including why the total bill was R2m.
She said they also wanted the list of service providers who were part of the project and a proper itemised billing.
Unisa will appear before the National Assembly’s portfolio committee on higher education, science and technology in three weeks’ time, according to King.
In 2013, Unisa boasted on social media that the Cloghreen residence had been restored and refurbished and stated that it was often referred to as “the place of many trees”.
Unisa, in a communiqué to staff and students earlier this year, said LenkaBula was not involved in procurement processes and/or the project and never demanded or requested any overseas items as was reported in January.
Instead, according to Unisa, she was concerned about the continued delays and then insisted on undertaking a site inspection with members of staff from her office and protection services to check progress on the renovations.
”During these site inspections, Prof. LenkaBula expressed her disquiet about the slow pace of the renovations. She also expressed displeasure about the high costs entailed in the quotations of the interior and household items,” Unisa said.
The institution added that upon the handover of the house and keys in October last year she conducted an inspection of the house and was convinced that the renovations done did not warrant the exorbitant amounts incurred and required formal investigations.
LenkaBula, who started her term of office in January last year, could not take occupation of the residence as her predecessor, Professor Mandla Makhanya, still occupied the property and only vacated it at the end of April.
Unisa did not respond to Independent Media’s questions on the progress of the investigation on Thursday