MPs question exorbitant salaries of university vice-chancellors, senior execs

Unisa Building, Pretoria.

The committee said the payments were not in line with research outputs, throughput rates, and so on that the universities produced.

A call for an inquiry into the exorbitant salaries of university vice-chancellors (VCs) and varsity senior executives has been made when the remuneration of varsity executives came under scrutiny in parliament on Wednesday.

The Portfolio Committee on Higher Education, Science and Technology expressed concern about the salaries and benefits paid by some universities to their senior executives, in particular the VCs. The committee was concerned that VCs of certain universities were earning far higher salaries, perks and bonuses that their counterparts in other institutions.

The committee chairperson, Philly Mapulane said his committee, notwithstanding the autonomy of institutions to set their own salaries, was concerned that the high remuneration levels paid to senior managers at some universities were not commensurate with the performance of their institutions.

The committee said the payments to the executives were not in line with research outputs, throughput rates, and so on that the universities produced.

A recent report listed that Unisa’s Prof Mandla Makhanya earned R5.2m and University of Johannesburg’s rector, Prof Tshilidzi Marwala took home R4.9m, followed by University of Zululand vice-chancellor Xoliswa Mtose who received R4.45m. On top of this, Makhanya and Tshilidzi received bonuses of R1.1 million each last year.

In what was clearly gender discrimination and undermining of women, University of Cape Town rector Prof Mamokgethi Phakeng was offered R1.5m for six months’ work as VC.

“The committee will request the Minister of Higher Education, Science and Technology to commission an inquiry through the Council on Higher Education into the remuneration of universities’ Vice-Chancellors and other senior executive managers and to report to Parliament. Universities are public institutions which must be accountable to the people of South Africa, through their elected representatives, about the prudent management of their finances,” he said.

“This question of remuneration of senior executive managers, if left unattended, may become a runaway train and therefore we are calling for action to be taken to regulate it.”

In other reports pertaining to higher education, the committee praised the Council on Higher Education (CHE), the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA) and the Quality Council for Trades and Occupations (QCTO) for their clean audit awards on their 2018/19 annual financial statements.

CHE was particularly commended for maintaining a clean audit and improving on service delivery performance. However, the Council was asked by the committee to put in place mechanisms to address areas of underperformance in programmes such as the Institutional Quality Assurance and Qualification Management and Programme Reviews.

On the other hand, SAQA was cautioned for its inadequate financial and performance report presentation with regards to its undertaking to improve matters in the 2018/19 financial year. The authorities’ poor presentation limited the committee’s ability to exercise effective oversight.

The committee reprimanded the entity and directed it to take the committee seriously and present the information properly in future. The MPs observed and expressed concern about the decline in QCTO’s service delivery performance from 75% in 2017/18 to 59% in 2018/19.

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