Sunday Times 18 August 2019

The Special Investigating Unit (SIU) is gunning for members of the former interim board of the SABC over a R185m tender they awarded for the provision of security services at the public broadcaster’s Auckland Park headquarters.

A report by the unit has found “serious irregularities” in the procurement process and the decision to award the contract to Mafoko Security Patrol.

The SIU now wants to bring an application to declare those interim board members who were part of the tender process delinquent and have them pay back all the money the SABC lost.

The SIU has also referred the matter to the National Prosecuting Authority for possible prosecution, and has applied to have the tender set aside.

It has also recommended to the SABC that an executive director who was present when the tender was awarded, and still works there, be disciplined.

But the affected members of the interim board are fighting back, saying they will take the report on judicial review. Those implicated include interim board chair Khanyisile Kweyama, who is also chair of the Passenger Rail Agency of SA; veteran journalists Mathatha Tsedu and John Matisonn; human rights lawyer Krish Naidoo; and former ANC national executive committee member Febe Potgieter-Gqubule.

The interim board was appointed in 2017 for six months after a parliamentary inquiry found serious abuse of power and widespread fraud and maladministration under the previous leadership at the SABC, in which Hlaudi Motsoeneng played a prominent part.

The interim board concluded its work and was replaced by another board chaired by Bongumusa Makhathini.

IRREGULARITIES AT THE SABC

The SIU said Makhathini requested in March last year that it investigate the awarding of the security tender to Mafoko.

The matter did not fall under a 2017 presidential proclamation that mandated the unit to investigate a number of irregularities at the public broadcaster. That proclamation was then extended to include the security contract.

In its final report, the SIU found that the bid adjudication committee had been irregularly constituted, that there had been financial misconduct, and that the Public Finance Management Act had been contravened.

As a result, the unit wants the current SABC board to bring an application under section 162 of the Companies Act “to declare the former directors of the interim board delinquent directors and to have them placed under probation for failing to act in the best interests of the SABC”.

The investigating unit has also brought an application to be joined as a party in court proceedings between the SABC and the losing bidder, Mjayeli Security Services, which is seeking to set the contract aside.

It wants members of the former interim board to pay the money lost by the SABC as a result of the awarding of the tender.

One of the interim board members implicated in the report, who did not want to be identified, rejected the SIU findings, saying the investigative unit had gone through board members’ private bank accounts and found no evidence of fraud.

“Everything was above board, they found nothing,” the board member said.

Tebogo Malatji, the lawyer representing the affected members of the interim board, said it was strange that the SIU was going after them in light of the fact that actions they had taken at the SABC had saved the broadcaster about R500m.

“We find it curious that after we brought in the SIU to investigate all the questionable activities in the SABC resulting from the critical parliamentary report, and the critical public protector’s report, the SIU found the only criminal case they wished to open was against the interim board which had stopped the questionable activities, saving the SABC an estimated R500m in our six months in office.”

Malatji said his clients would seek a review of the report.

“What is clear is that they are compelled to take the report on review with the courts as it is fundamentally flawed in its findings,” he said in a written response to questions from the Sunday Times.

Makhathini, who initiated the investigation, said the SABC board had received the SIU report.

“The SABC board will support the application by the SIU to have the contract between the SABC and Mafoko Security Patrols reviewed and set aside.”

He said the board would only comment further once court papers had been lodged.

SIU spokesperson Nazreen Pandor confirmed the unit had joined the SABC in legal proceedings to have the tender set aside.

She referred all other queries to the presidency, which the investigative unit has furnished with the final report, as required by law.

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