Trevor Adams can't say for sure that UCT's recent Level-3 Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment (B-BBEE) rating is the best of any university in the country. But when he casually dropped the rating into conversation at a meeting with some of his finance counterparts from other universities, they were definitely impressed, he reports.
Based on a scorecard for higher-education institutions agreed to between Higher Education South Africa and the Department of Trade and Industry, UCT scored highly in most of the categories. The Level-3 rating (75 to 85 points out of a possible 100), awarded by B-BBEE verification agency Emex Trust, is also a vast improvement over the Level-6 (45 to 55 points) of 2010.
The 2011 rating includes full marks (15 out of 15 in both categories) in enterprise development (which involved, for example, shrinking the payment period for the smaller businesses with which UCT trades) and socio-economic development (which includes UCT's multi-million-rand financial aid programme). The university also scored well in the categories for preferential procurement (business with other B-BBEE-rated companies), management and control (which includes the make-up of its executive and UCT Council) and employment equity (staff demographics).
But there is room for improvement. UCT earned just 9.51 points out of a possible 20 in the skills development category, for example.
That perhaps reflects, more than anything else, that UCT hasn't kept a very good record of the training its staff members undergo, says Carol Paulse, vendor management officer and the person who pulls together UCT's rating application. But as staff training will be chronicled in the new Personal Performance System, it's an oversight that will be corrected in the new year.
The B-BBEE rating serves as more than just a PR exercise, says Adams, head of Procurement & Payment Services in the Finance Department. For example, it could be the deciding factor in UCT winning a bid to provide a service to a government department or state-owned enterprise when in competition with other universities, as B-BBEE ratings form part of the evaluation criteria for these entities to make such an award.
"BEE is not a nice-to-have," says Adams. "It's actually a business imperative."
UCT is one of only a handful of South African universities that have gone through the exercise. More are following suit now, Adams notes.
The trick for UCT, though, is to maintain or improve upon this rating, he adds.
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