Wits spends on jobs and maintenance‚ joining other universities in cutting capex for second year in a row

Wits University
Wits University
Image: Supplied

South African universities have cut spending on assets for the second year in a row‚ according to StatsSA.

“The country’s 20 universities and six universities of technology recorded a 5.4% drop in capital expenditure in 2017 compared with 2016‚ falling from R6.22bn to R5.89bn.”

This follows a 0.7% drop from R6.27bn to R6.22bn in 2016.

Capital expenditure is the money an institution spends on buying‚ maintaining or upgrading fixed assets such as buildings‚ land‚ equipment‚ vehicles and furniture.

Stats SA said: “These assets generally increase the capacity and efficiency of the institution… The amount that an institution spends on fixed assets shows the extent to which it’s investing in the long term.”

The decrease was largely the result of the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits)‚ the University of South Africa (Unisa) and Mthatha’s Walter Sisulu University cutting down.

The biggest spenders on fixed assets last year were the University of Pretoria (13%)‚ Stellenbosch University (10%) and the University of Mpumalanga (9%).Most money was spent on buildings (63%) and furniture (14%).“Capital expenditure priorities differ across institutions.

South African universities have cut down on capital expenditure for a second year in a row according to Stats SA.
South African universities have cut down on capital expenditure for a second year in a row according to Stats SA.
Image: .Stats SA

The University of Mpumalanga spent 95% of its capital expenditure on buildings‚ while Sol Plaatje University (Kimberley) spent 93%.

In contrast‚ Unisa spent a small proportion on buildings‚ instead focusing on ICT equipment and machinery and equipment.

”Wits told Stats SA it reduced its capital expenditure to save money for increased maintenance costs.“The institution would also redirect any surplus cash towards its insourcing programme‚ the process of absorbing staff that were previously employed by third-party contractors.”

Wits initiated outsourcing in 2002 when it appointed external companies to provide cleaning‚ catering‚ security‚ transport‚ waste‚ grounds and landscaping services.

This policy was reversed after it became one of the demands of the student-led #FeesMustFall movement.

The university hired more than 1‚500 workers at the beginning of 2017.

Wits said in a statement last year that the insourced workers were not only given salary increases‚ but also a chance to improve their children's lives.

"The children of previously outsourced workers will now be able to access quality higher education. Those who qualify to study at Wits will receive financial aid from the university‚ setting them on a new trajectory‚" the university said.