VUT delegates account for IEG funding to DHET Officials
VUT delegates account for IEG funding to DHET Officials
VUT delegates with the DHET officials
On 23 October, the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) officials: Mr Donald Kubayi, Miss Sue Govender and Mr Mpho Kau and delegates from different departments within the Vaal University of Technology (VUT) gathered at the University’s Southern Gauteng Science and Technology Park.
The overall aim of the gathering was for the VUT delegates to account for their use of the Infrastructure and Efficiency Grant (IEG) provided to universities by the DHET. They were required to provide a summary of the progress reports per project, highlighting any key issues such as delays, or under-expenditure as well as to describe what has been done or what is being done about the issues.
The University also had to report on its progress to date in meeting the 17 milestones of norms and standards in the DHET infrastructure management guidelines for universities. The VUT report presented by delegates made reference to the plan for meeting these norms and standards and was uploaded on the MIF online platform as part of the recent IEG funding requirements.
Professor Gordon Zide; VUT Vice-Chancellor (VC) and Principal, gave a warm welcome to the DHET visitors highlighting VUT’s strong relationship with the department and acknowledged that without DHET funding, the buildings would not be in existence. He described the relationship as similar to tree roots: “It holds the tree no matter what,” he said unlike those that disappear like leaves and can’t withstand the trials and tribulations of life.
“We take delight in knowing that the DHET is always with us and for the other institutions,” he added.
Mr Moses Mlilwana and Professor Pieter Swanepoel, accounting for the new Life and Physical Sciences Building, the Disability Unit and African Languages Centre, the new Residences and the Teacher Education Building. Both mentioned that projects have overlapped the current cycle. They also mentioned the challenges that have been encountered such as those emanating from the community, the construction companies, damages due to buildings lying idle for a long time and flooding, all of which incur additional costs, that the University finds it hard to pay on its own. They also gave figures of the total money spent on these projects thus far and timelines for the projects that have been met and those that have not.
While some of the buildings have been finished they have not yet been approved by the municipality and they have, what can be described as minor issues or snags, which can be easily fixed. Remedial suggestions were brought forward and plans have been put in motion to resolve some of the issues including electricity, water and sewer problems.
It was also brought forward that the Disability Unit and African Languages Centre have major defects that are being attended to.
Prof Peter Dzvimbo: Deputy Vice-Chancellor informed the DHET officials of the problems the University faces, especially of those involving the students living with disabilities and highlighted that they need to be taken very seriously.
Presenting on the norms required by the DHET, Prof Swanepoel indicated that the Infrastructure Management Plan had been approved by the University’s Executive Management Council (EMC) and will be submitted to Council for final approval. The updated documents have been submitted to the DHET and the Council will make sure that all DHET requirements are met.
Mr Hendrik van der Merwe presented the Southern Gauteng Science and Technology Park map to all the delegates to show the already operating buildings, thus highlighting that the Science Park is accessible to all community members and that it prides itself on its advanced manufacturing precinct, e-skills, and its agriculture and biotechnology precinct producing indigenous medicines. They are looking to expand facilities, increase security and initiate a master plan, that will be still accessible to the community and support it, he said. He mentioned that the Science Park has adequate land for all long- and short-term future developments.
Mr Kubayi of the DHET said the visit has been an eye-opener for him and commended the VUT delegates for voicing their issues faced without fear and encouraged them to seek advice in terms of best practices while finalising the reports, to look at cost norms as planning tools and to watch out for cost escalations to save expenditure for the University.
Miss Govendor said it was very interesting for her to hear of all the challenges and it is good to see that initiatives are being taken by the University and urged that the University work on its Master Plan and infrastructure and prioritise projects. They also recommended that the University engage with the community members and come up with their own plan to deal with the issues they face, to involve the municipality on projects from the onset, plan upfront for projects, so that by the time funding becomes available, they are able to acquire advice and that DHET has a technical team available for support on various issues.
The DHET officials were also informed about the plan the University has for a Cultural Village. Impressed by the project plan, Mr Kubayi said: “Whatever is regarded as priority, is a project worth supporting for the DHET.”
The visit was concluded with a visit to the new 300-bed residence and the new Teacher Education Building, where construction has commenced.