Ceta whis­tle-blow­ers ‘hunted’ by CEO

CityPress - - News - HLENGIWE NHLABATHI hlengiwe.nhlabathi@city­press.co.za

Sus­pected whis­tle-blow­ers who ex­posed fraud­u­lent ac­tiv­i­ties im­pli­cat­ing Con­struc­tion Education and Train­ing Au­thor­ity (Ceta) CEO Sonja Pilusa were made to sign con­fi­den­tial­ity agree­ments to keep silent be­fore be­ing fired.

The whis­tle-blow­ers have ac­cused Higher Education and Train­ing Min­is­ter Blade Nz­i­mande, as cus­to­dian of the state en­tity, of hav­ing failed to pro­tect them in favour of a “dra­co­nian man­age­ment”.

They said that the fact that Pilusa was never placed on pre­cau­tion­ary sus­pen­sion pend­ing an out­come of a foren­sic in­ves­ti­ga­tion into al­le­ga­tions against her wors­ened their plight.

Pilusa al­legedly em­barked on a witch-hunt af­ter an anony­mous let­ter emerged last April. It painted Ceta – which trains and pro­vides bur­saries for pupils in­ter­ested in en­ter­ing the con­struc­tion in­dus­try – as a state en­tity that is worse off than it was when it was placed un­der ad­min­is­tra­tion in 2012.

United Demo­cratic Move­ment leader Bantu Holomisa has writ­ten a let­ter ask­ing Pub­lic Pro­tec­tor Thuli Madon­sela to in­ves­ti­gate the mat­ter af­ter he re­ceived com­plaints from a group of ex­pelled and sus­pended work­ers.

In his let­ter dated Fe­bru­ary 9, which City Press has seen, Holomisa raises con­cerns about the “in­volve­ment of the SA Com­mu­nist Party [SACP], which was out­side of govern­ment”.

Holomisa said Nz­i­mande had failed to safe­guard pub­lic re­sources, par­tic­u­larly be­cause of the “dom­i­nance” of the SACP in the depart­ment and the Ceta.

Pilusa is also ac­cused of ir­reg­u­larly us­ing her power to seek in­ter­ven­tion from the SACP to deal with staff who were op­posed to cer­tain de­ci­sions.

She al­legedly hauled now sus­pended Ceta pro­vin­cial co­or­di­na­tor Nomh­lanhla Ndovela to a meet­ing with the SACP, where she was ad­dressed as a “de­ployee”.

Pilusa is said to have been ac­com­pa­nied by Ceta chair Nh­lanhla Ray­mond Cele and for­mer Ceta ad­min­is­tra­tor Themba Mhambi to the meet­ing in Dur­ban with KwaZulu-Na­tal sec­re­tary Themba Mthembu. Cele is a mem­ber of the SACP in KwaZulu-Na­tal, while Mhambi is a mem­ber in Gaut­eng.

Pilusa is said to have “in­structed them” to warn Ndovela about “as­so­ci­at­ing with the per­sons that both Pilusa and Mhambi re­garded as their en­e­mies”. This was in ref­er­ence to Ceta fi­nan­cial man­ager Kele­bogilwe Mo­hotji and an­other Gaut­eng pro­vin­cial man­ager, who were later dis­missed af­ter be­ing charged for leak­ing in­for­ma­tion. This al­le­ga­tion is con­tained in a let­ter handed to Madon­sela to help her with her in­ves­ti­ga­tion. It was writ­ten by Ndovela to Cele and higher education depart­ment di­rec­tor-gen­eral Gwebs Qonde.

The SACP’s Mthembu has de­nied he was ever forced to call any of­fi­cial at Ceta to or­der. He said he would write to Holomisa be­cause he was be­ing dis­hon­est by us­ing him and the al­leged meet­ing to per­pet­u­ate a nar­ra­tive about the SACP’s in­flu­ence at the Ceta.

Nz­i­mande’s spokesper­son, Khaye Nk­wanyana, said th­ese were se­ri­ous al­le­ga­tions that should be re­ferred to in­ves­ti­ga­tors and the Seta Ac­count­ing Au­thor­ity.

He also de­fended the de­ci­sion not to sus­pend Pilusa, say­ing the min­is­ter could not sus­pend some­one on a whim be­cause courts took a dim view of that.

Nk­wanyana said if al­le­ga­tions of purg­ing were true, it was tan­ta­mount to un­fair labour prac­tice.

City Press was told that prob­lems at Ceta have also been es­ca­lated to Deputy Pres­i­dent Cyril Ramaphosa for in­ter­ven­tion. Trea­sury has been asked to in­ves­ti­gate Ceta’s non­com­pli­ance to the Pub­lic Fi­nance Man­age­ment Act, and a case of fraud against Pilusa has been opened with the com­mer­cial crimes unit.

The Ceta has de­nied al­le­ga­tions of a witch­hunt on whis­tle-blow­ers.

“The Ceta treats all its em­ploy­ees in ac­cor­dance with the ap­pli­ca­ble em­ploy­ment laws,” it said.

Its spokesper­son, Jab­u­lani Jiyane, said: “The CEO did not de­cide that all Ceta staff should sign the con­fi­den­tial­ity agree­ments and forms. This is a stan­dard prac­tice that Ceta has adopted and has been the prac­tise in the or­gan­i­sa­tion from as far back as 2007, be­fore Ms Pilusa was CEO.” Pilusa de­nied there was ever a meet­ing with the SACP. She in­sisted that the Ceta had no af­fil­i­a­tion with the SACP.

When asked why Pilusa had not been sus­pended pend­ing the in­ter­nal in­quiry as per pro­ce­dure, Jiyane said that could only be done if a prima fa­cie case of mis­con­duct was made against Pilusa.

“The Ceta re­quires ev­i­dence to sup­port such an al­le­ga­tion. De­spite many op­por­tu­ni­ties and plat­forms cre­ated for those who al­lege to be in pos­ses­sion of such ev­i­dence to bring it for­ward, no such ev­i­dence has been pro­vided to the Ceta.”

Bantu Holomisa

Sonja Pilusa

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