Last December, I wrote in a campus announcement about the appointment of a new service provider, Whistle Blowers Pty (Ltd), who have been responsible for the UCT hotline since 1 January 2018. Whistle Blowers Pty (Ltd) was recently independently measured by The Ethics Institute and was duly certified as meeting the requirements of the External Whistle-blowing Hotline Service Provider Standard E01.1.1 for the ninth successive year. This certification gives the assurance that an independent authority has reviewed the key aspects of the company’s operations, from the training of its staff to the quality control of the reporting. It also gives the assurance that the service provider and its services are benchmarked against the highest standards.
UCT’s approach is one of zero tolerance to fraud and corruption. The UCT Fraud and Corruption Policy was approved by Council in 2017 and in line with the policy all allegations of fraud and corruption will be investigated and acted on.
An update on a sample of cases reported and concluded in 2017:
In 2017 a total of 18 unique allegations were reported via the hotline. Each allegation was investigated and once the matter was finalised, an official response was provided via the hotline. While every effort is made to ensure that feedback is provided within three weeks, this is not always possible given the varying complexity of each case. It is important that the rights of our employees, students or service providers are respected, hence the presumption of innocence until proven otherwise.
Complaint: A caller reported that staff had taken excessive leave.
Outcome: The investigation revealed that all leave taken had been applied for and granted in line with the UCT Human Resources policy. The investigation was completed in less than three weeks and a report provided to the hotline.
Complaint: An anonymous fax was received, reporting a number of staff members for allegedly committing fraud and larceny-theft of a student’s intellectual property.
Outcome: The allegations in the fax could not be investigated due to a lack of specific details about the alleged wrongdoing. Also, the allegations contained various names, none which could be matched to UCT staff members. It is important that when allegations are made against UCT staff members or students, details are provided that will allow for a meaningful investigation.
Complaint: A caller reported alleged misconduct on the part of a staff member relating to paying for student accommodation.
Outcome: The investigation revealed that the payments were not irregular and had been approved by the responsible line manager..
Complaint: A caller reported alleged irregularities in a voluntary severance package at UCT.
Outcome: The investigation revealed that there were no irregularities in how the case was dealt with.
Complaint: A caller alleged unethical conduct relating to another official.
Outcome: Following the completion of the investigation, a disciplinary process was initiated and the hearing proceeded over a period of two days. However, while the disciplinary process was still underway, the staff member submitted his resignation, which was accepted by management.
Complaint: A caller reported alleged fraud relating to misuse of university funds.
Outcome: Following an investigation, it was determined that the staff member in question had a case to answer. A disciplinary enquiry followed, which resulted in the dismissal of the staff member concerned.
Staff members, students and external parties who become aware of any unethical conduct are encouraged to use the hotline to report such cases. Anonymity is assured. Please note though that for a matter to be investigated, it must be clear what the alleged unethical conduct is and the whistle-blower must be acting in good faith when reporting any alleged irregularity. Frivolous reporting does not advance the purpose of the hotline. Over the next few months we intend to build more awareness of the hotline facility through a poster drive on campus. Should your department or group require a presentation on how the UCT whistle-blowing hotline operates, please contact Shai Makgoba, Director: Risk Compliance and Relationship Management.