Were Safcol executives felled after tale of graft?
A top executive and a financial chief of state forestry company SA Forestry Company Limited (Safcol) have resigned from their jobs with immediate effect after a tale of graft.
Chief executive Nomkhita Mona and chief financial officer Zoliswa Mashinini stepped down from their jobs on December 14 – two years before their employment contracts were due to expire.
Safcol is state owned and falls under the control of Public Enterprises Minister Lynne Brown. It has R3.6 billion in assets in Mpumalanga, Limpopo and KwaZulu-Natal, grows pine trees on 187 000 hectares and sells timber.
Mona and Mashinini had been using Safcol’s cellphones. They left them behind when they resigned, so could not be reached for comment.
Mona did not respond to questions emailed on her private email account on December 19.
Safcol spokesperson Khaya Buthelezi said: “The board has been engaging management about the performance of the company ... management has not been able to provide satisfactory answers and, to that end, the board accepted the resignations.” Yesterday, Buthelezi said two more Safcol executives were suspended on December 21. Chief operations officer Francois de Villiers and senior executive for human capital and transformation, Julia Mphafudi, were suspended on charges of a “serious nature”.
“They were issued with letters of intention to suspend on Monday and given until 2pm on Tuesday to give reasons they should not be suspended. When they did not respond, the board resolved to suspend them.” The resignations of Mona and Mashinini came after Brown had appointed a new board of directors on August 17.
Five forensic audit reports that were done between March and December 2014, which City Press has seen, painted the extent of corrupt activities at the parastatal. The reports show how:
Safcol paid R9.8 million to a company, mostly for vehicle repairs, between 2006 and 2014, despite the company having no written contract or tender. Safcol lost R1.3 million in VAT claims because the company was not registered for VAT.
A handful of companies belonging to a businessman in Limpopo received overpayments of R15 million. In one instance, he was paid R22 million for a contract worth R9 million. One of the senior managers who had signed off on the overpayments bought a Land Rover, valued at R49 700, for R8 000 from the same businessman who had benefited from overpayments.
A private company was allowed to use Safcol’s workshops and equipment for free. The report estimated that a market-related fee for this service would have been R138 000.
A major transport company was manipulating a black-owned transport company it was supposed to be mentoring by accessing its emails, dictating which contracts it could bid for, performing work and receiving payments from Safcol under the blackowned company’s name. A March 2014 report found there had been a manipulation of Safcol’s tender processes to award a R1.2 million contract to the major transport company.
Meanwhile, two Safcol sources said the resignations probably had to do with how the company’s general manager of forestry, Goodman Gcaba, was treated after he exposed massive corruption to the board and management.
Gcaba had been trying to institute a disciplinary action against officials after the forensic audit reports by an independent company uncovered corruption. But he was frustrated in his efforts.
Officials said Gcaba was prevented from taking action against those implicated of wrongdoing by the audit reports. But this claim was denied by management at the time, saying that there were disciplinary actions being taken against certain employees as a result of the reports.
Buthelezi said the resignations and Gcaba’s suspension were unrelated. “The CEO and CFO were engaged on company performance. You’ll have to engage Gcaba about matters relating to his suspension. Those matters are sub judice because there is a disciplinary process under way,” he said.
Gcaba’s Mbombela home was petrol-bombed on February 14 in what he believes was an attempt to intimidate him into silence. He was not injured, but had to find a secret place to live under 24-hour protection. Police are still investigating the matter and no one has been arrested.
On August 26, Mona suspended Gcaba after saying he had signed contracts he had no authority over and that he had communicated with a supplier.
But Gcaba maintains the actions against him were part of an attempt to smear him and get rid of him for blowing the whistle on corrupt activities.