Sunday, October 17, 2021

UB Council failed to take action against senior official who committed fraud

Against all dictates of the much-touted corporate governance, the Council of the University of Botswana failed to take disciplinary action against a high-ranking university official who was found to have committed fraud. 

That the fraud was committed is established as fact in a Court of Appeal judgement that says that minutes of an October 5, 2012 UB Council meeting were doctored. This meeting considered an industrial relations dispute between UB and Dr. Gbolagade Adekanmbi, an expatriate employee whose new contract of employment had been revoked. 

Until July 2011, Adekanmbi worked at UB as the Deputy Director of Academic Programming. Prior to the expiration of his contract, he had expressed intention to renew his contract. Such intention was communicated to the Staff Appointments and Promotions Committee which gave its blessings and extended Adekanmbi’s contract by another five years. The second contract was to end in August 2016. However, four months after receiving his contract letter, Adekanmbi received another letter withdrawing the offer of renewal of contract. The second letter said that this about-face was due to the fact that the position was redundant and that the job offer was improper as the post had not been advertised. 

Upon deliberating on the matter, the UB Council resolved that Adekanmbi should be reinstated as the revocation of his contract was unprocedural. At the next Council meeting on January 8, 2013, it was discovered that the minutes of the previous meeting had been doctored. At this time the chairperson of the Council was the now deceased Elijah Legwaila who at the time was himself a CoA judge. The CoA judgement says that the “patent differences” between the minutes and Legwaila’s notes “were not ordinary inaccuracies but differences suggestive of a deliberate alteration to the minutes.” Of “great concern” to the court was the addition of a whole paragraph (marked ‘D’) that made fictitious resolutions on behalf of the Council.

Paragraph D contained resolutions that the Council never made when discussing Adekanmbi’s issue. It stated that the Council had concluded that the Staff Appeals Committee had made their conclusions based on technicalities and not the substance of the case; that Adekanmbi’s posts and other posts in the Centre for Continuing Education (CCE) were redundant and excess requirements that management should have discontinued; that while management had discussed the issue of redundancy, overlaps and conflict in positions at the CCE, a decision to declare Adekanmbi’s and other posts in the CCE was never made; and that UB had the right to discontinue any position and give the incumbent reasonable notice which normally ranges between six months and 12 months’ worth of pay. 

The judgement credits Legwaila for having been “clear and adamant on account of his diligent and astute mind that the contents of paragraph (d) were never part of the resolution of Council at all.” It goes farther to say that this “flagrant” falsification of the Council minutes “is suggestive of, if not actually manifesting some malicious manoeuvre” towards Adekanmbi. The meeting resolved to delete the whole paragraph and replace it with a true account of what the Council had actually discussed and agreed upon.

Nowhere does the judgement name names but Sunday Standard’s has been able to learn the identity of the culprit. In answer to the question of who took minutes at the meeting in question, all UB’s Director of Public Affairs, Mhitshane Reetsang, would reveal was that the task of taking minutes falls to UB’s Director of Legal Services who serves as the Council’s secretary. Independently, we have established that at the time of this particular meeting, the latter position was vacant and the minutes were taken by somebody else other than the Director of Legal Services.

What Sunday Standard has also established independently is that the actual doctoring of the minutes was done not by those who took the minutes but by a high-ranking UB official. The act of doctoring of minutes constitutes fraud and ordinarily, the Council should have taken disciplinary action against the culprit. However, even before getting to the point of whether action was taken against the culprit, Reetsang denies knowledge of minutes of a Council meeting being doctored.

“Matters relating to the business of Council are by nature confidential,” she says.

Good sources tell Sunday Standard that the issue is darker and more intriguing than the CoA judgement could reveal. The story is that Adekanmbi and the minutes-falsifier have a long-standing feud that was ratcheted up when the issue of the former’s contract renewal came up. It is being alleged that for the minutes-falsifier, this was an opportunity to get even and fiddling with the minutes was part of a grand strategy to ensure that Adekanmbi’s contract was not renewed. When the Council discovered that the minutes had been falsified, the next logical step was to identify the culprit. Our information is that the minutes-falsifier falsely assigned blame to a subordinate who is said to have been “furious” and from then on had an acrimonious relationship with the former.  

Established under the University of Botswana Act, the Council is made of appointed and elected members. Eleven members are appointed by the Minister of Education and Skills Development; three by the Chancellor;  two non-resident members from the SADC region are appointed by Council; one member (a professor) is elected by the UB Senate; one member (a dean of faculty) is elected by the Senate; one member is elected by the academic staff; two members are elected by the support staff; and the group is rounded out by four ex-officio members from UB: Vice Chancellor, Deputy Vice Chancellor (Student Affairs), Deputy Vice Chancellor (Finance and Administration) and the president of the Student Body Representative.

The revelation about the minutes being doctored will also impugn the integrity of the Council. As the CoA judgement makes clear, a criminal act was committed and none other than the Chairperson of the Council discovered such act. That notwithstanding, no disciplinary action was taken against the culprit whom, as Sunday Standard learns, is still part of an administrative structure that makes crucial decisions that affect not just UB employees and students but the country as well.

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