Bursary 'fraud': I did it, but I was by no means the only one
Khaya Sithole claims high-level people ordered him to add students to scheme without following due process
Political and social commentator Khaya Sithole, who faces a number of charges, has admitted to forging a signature to award bursaries to more than 100 students when he was the programme manager of the Thuthuka Bursary Fund (TBF).
But on Tuesday Sithole would not give reasons for acting illegally.
His admission to the crime is contained in his affidavit, which he submitted during the disciplinary proceedings at the South Africa Institute of Chartered Accountants (Saica) last week.
Sithole is facing a disciplinary hearing for fabricating a letter from the fund’s project director, Nthato Selebi, which he then fraudulently issued to 129 Wits accounting students, falsely claiming that they had been awarded Thuthuka bursaries.
Sithole, a former Wits senior lecturer, did not deny the allegations but questioned why he was singled out as other senior personnel were aware of his fraudulent activities.These individuals include National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) chairperson Sizwe Nxasana, Wits vice-chancellor Adam Habib, Saica CEO and TBF trustee Terrence Nombembe, head of the School of Accountancy at Wits associate professor Nirupa Padia, and Saica executive director and TBF custodian Chantyl Muler.
Sithole claimed that his predecesor, Michelle Aucock, had also used a letter to seek financial clearance and the registration of students at the NSFAS. The students who benefited from the bursary were studying at Wits University between 2014 and 2015.
“All I wanted was to present my case (through the affidavit) as based on the facts as I remember them, but the judicial process decides whether I am in the right or in the wrong,” Sithole said.According to Saica, Sithole’s fraudulent activity cost the institute more the R10-million over four years, which TBF – a venture to develop black accountants – claims to be against its code of conduct.
Sithole, who is also the secretary-general of Advancement of Black Accountants in Southern Africa, alleged that all these high-level individuals had given him orders to add students to the bursary scheme without following due process.
“They individually and sometimes collectively conspired to put me under undue pressure to break the rules in order to accommodate their wishes and desires,” he said. “During the course of 2014, 2015 and 2016, these individuals would ... in cahoots with each other, initiate the addition of irregular students on the programme in a manner that took advantage of the power they had to override and decisions made.”Wits University spokersperson Shiron Patel denied the allegations levelled against Habib, saying they would take legal action against Sithole.
“The university categorically rejects the allegations made in recent days by a former employee of the university. The university is of the view that the Saica disciplinary process should be allowed to run its course without interference.
“The university reserves its right to comment at a later stage and to take appropriate action against any person or body who makes false allegations or brings the university’s name into disrepute,” she said.Saica refused to comment on the matter.
Nxasana confirmed that he had sent an e-mail to Sithole, enquiring whether or not one of the students had enough points to meet the requirements for Thuthuka.
“However, upon realising that the student would not get funding from TBF, my wife and I, through our family trust, decided to fund the student. The student qualified to study towards Bcom politics, philosophy and economics,“ Nxasana told the Sowetan.Who is Khaya Sithole?
Khaya Sithole is a former financial accounting lecturer at Wits University and serves as the Thuthuka Project's coordinator.
He trained with FirstRand Group and worked at Saica. He is also a qualified chartered accountant-turned-commentator.
His primary passion is the mentorship of students and the promotion of principle-based teaching.
Sithole has served on the Saica Eastern Region’s transformation and education committee, the National Board of Directors for Abasa, where he serves as its secretary-general, and the Saica Eastern Region Council.