Were Saf­col ex­ec­u­tives felled af­ter tale of graft?

CityPress - - Busi­ness - SIZWE SAMA YENDE sizwe.yende@city­press.co.za

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.

Zoliswa Mashinini

Nomkhita Mona

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