Registrar Royston Pillay provides an update on some of the cases reported and concluded in 2019:

The University of Cape Town (UCT) Whistle-blowing Hotline is one of the measures introduced by management to allow internal and external stakeholders to provide details of matters that may be in contravention of UCT policies or involve unethical conduct.

The UCT Hotline continues to receive a number of calls pertaining to allegations of unethical conduct and, in some instances, what is perceived as fraud and corruption. Management considers all allegations received and where it is not clear what management should be investigating, the matter is referred back via the hotline for the whistle-blower to provide more information. As UCT management does not have any direct contact with the whistle-blowers, it is important that when calls or emails are sent to the hotline, enough information is provided to enable an investigation.

In 2019 a total of 34 unique matters were reported to the hotline for investigation. A few of these matters had to be referred back as not enough details were provided by the whistle-blowers. In some cases, the whistle-blowers failed to respond to management’s request for more details and as a result the matter could not be investigated or finalised. It is for this reason that we encourage whistle-blowers to call the hotline, where a qualified agent will interact with the caller to get all crucial information. Our experience shows that where written reports are sent to the hotline, some important details about the allegations are often not included. We urge all whistle-blowers to ensure that they provide enough detail for management to launch an investigation when reporting matters to the hotline.

An interesting aspect of the 2019 cases was the number of student-related issues. This demonstrates the university’s efforts to ensure greater awareness of the hotline to all key stakeholders.

To ensure independence from UCT management, and complete anonymity for those using the service, Whistle Blowers (Pty) Ltd is responsible for all operations relating to the hotline. This is an independent company which provides a multi-channel ethics hotline service to organisations of all sizes in both the public and private sectors. UCT benefits from the expertise, safe reporting systems and best practices that only a dedicated specialist can provide. (Read more about the service provider.)

The following are some of the 2019 cases received through the hotline:

Case 1

Complaint: The caller raised concerns about the appraisal of a staff member by their line management.

Outcome: Management considered this to be a human resources (HR)-related matter and encouraged the caller to use the existing HR channels for raising such matters.

Case 2

Complaint: Allegations were raised about a service provider offering assignment writing services to students at a fee.

Outcome: The service provider was cautioned to refrain from offering such services and a campus announcement was issued to caution students not to use the services, which may compromise their academic performance and the use of such services may lead to disciplinary action.

Case 3

Complaint: Allegations were received about a student being admitted into a postgraduate programme despite not meeting the entrance requirements.

Outcome: An investigation showed that the student did meet the requirements for admission to the programme of study concerned.

Case 4

Complaint: A caller reported that a staff member was operating an illegal money-lending scheme on UCT premises and during office hours.

Outcome: An investigation was undertaken and a recommendation was made that the staff member must face disciplinary action. The investigation also revealed that other staff members not listed in the complaint also operated illegal money-lending schemes and will also face disciplinary action.

Case 5

Complaint: A chairperson of a selection committee was alleged to have overruled the selection committee and influenced the appointment process for their preferred candidate.

Outcome: An investigation revealed that the appointed candidate was appointed in line with UCT HR processes and that the decision was not inappropriately influenced by the chairperson.

Case 6

Complaint: It was alleged that during an interview process a member of the transformation committee was intimidated to support a particular candidate.

Outcome: Through investigation, there was no evidence found that any member of the selection committee was influenced to support a particular candidate.

Case 7

Complaint: A student was alleged to have provided a fake medical certificate after missing a test.

Outcome: An investigation revealed that the medical certificate was valid and the doctor in question confirmed that the student was seen by them.

Case 8

Complaint: Allegations were received with regard to examination irregularities taking place in one of the academic departments.

Outcome: Management considered the allegations very serious and requested more information from the whistle-blower. Unfortunately, the matter could not be investigated as key information was lacking. The matter is still pending, subject to additional details being provided by the caller.

By sharing an overview of cases received, we are honouring our obligation to inform the UCT community of matters that have come to management’s attention. The UCT Whistle-blowing Hotline number is 0800 650 000.

Management will continue to engage with labour unions and student representatives to raise more awareness about the hotline. However, if there is any group, department or faculty that wants more information about the hotline and its operations, they can contact Shai Makgoba, UCT’s director of Risk, Compliance and Relationship Management, on 021 650 2754 or for a presentation.

UCT is committed to a culture of ethical compliance and good, clean governance. It is for this reason that we call on all staff, students and third parties to make use of the hotline if they become aware of instances of unethical conduct which may not have been picked up through internal controls. Matters already raised with management through other channels should not be referred to the hotline as this results in duplication of efforts.

Royston Pillay
24 June 2020

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