By Duncan Mlanjira
Institute of Chartered Accountants in Malawi (ICAM) chief executive officer (CEO), Dr Francis Chinjoka Gondwe says he is aggrieved by allegation made by Malawian law Professor Danwood Chirwa on social media that asserts that Gondwe’s doctoral degree in Business Administration obtained through Columbia Commonwealth University in 2011 is ‘fake’.
Prof. Chirwa, who is Professor and Dean of Law at the University of Cape Town, posted on Facebook on Sunday alleging that Columbia Commonwealth University is a ‘diploma mill’ and that “there are lecturers from Chancellor College and the Polytechnic who participated in the fraud that this institution is and has always been”.
“Did the two colleges give permission to these individuals to participate in the fraud?” asks Chirwa.
“Secondly, to you chartered accountants of Malawi: could you provide information on where the CEO of your Institute of Chartered Accountants of Malawi got his PhD? Further questions will follow from the answer you give.”
But according to records, Government duly accredited Columbia Commonwealth University in 2001 through National Council for Higher Education (NCHE), which was established by an Act of Parliament under sections 28 and 29.
The Government records also show that the said university was deregistered in 2018 owing to governance issues “for failure to carry out its objectives and not carrying out its functions properly”.
“This order shall not affect the validity of any certificate, diploma, degree or other academic qualifications conferred or awarded prior to 29th October, 2018,” says the Gazette that was filed by the then Minister of Education, Science & Technology, Bright Msaka.
When contacted, Gondwe confirmed that he indeed graduated from Columbia Commonwealth University in 2011 with a doctoral degree in Business Administration with strategic management as his area of concentration.
He said it was unfortunate that “the good Professor is making such wild allegation” but declined to comment further as he currently has sought legal counsel on the matter that he hinted borders on defamation.
However, when contacted Prof. Chirwa maintained that the issue is not whether Gondwe has a certificate or not but “rather whether he got it from a diploma mill”.
“These are institutions created to exploit regulatory gaps in higher education with the further intention to make a mockery of higher education and to profit from such mockery,” he said.
“CCU is known throughout the world to be a fake university. This man who heads ICAM should be able to distinguish between a fake institution and a genuine one.
“He chose to participate in the fraud and benefited financially from it. He has also misled people into thinking he holds a credible degree — he does not.
“That CCU managed to gain registration and got accreditation at some point doesn’t vindicate him. Rather it provides evidence of possible corruption.
“The Ministry of Education and the people involved in this fiasco have to provide information of what standards they applied and review they conducted.”
He challenged Gondwe to sue him in court, saying he is ready to “defend higher education in the courts of law” [and that] “such a suit will effectively be between those who make a mockery of higher education and defenders of the integrity of higher education”.
He also maintains that he has not just targeted Gondwe alone but “all who have fake degrees,”
“This cartel of diploma fraud involves multiple players including regulators, profiteers and gullible individuals. For young undergraduate students who don’t know, they can be excused but for those with some level of education, their intention is to profit from the misrepresentation of their credentials.
“Gondwe leads an important professional organization. It cannot be headed by someone who has questionable qualifications — that is disqualifying in any credible accounting regulatory body.
“But Malawi is led by questionable characters all the time,” Chirwa said.