Parks board CEO de­fends ‘ir­reg­u­lar’ spend­ing

CityPress - - News - ABRAM MASHEGO and POLOKO TAU abram.mashego@city­press.co.za

The chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer of the North West Parks Board has been ac­cused of ir­reg­u­larly pro­mot­ing his for­mer girl­friend, spend­ing al­most R1 mil­lion on the pro­duc­tion of a 10-minute YouTube pro­mo­tional video and de­fy­ing the State Se­cu­rity Agency’s warn­ing against ap­point­ing a for­eign na­tional to a key post.

The al­le­ga­tions, raised by staff mem­bers, are con­tained in a leaked dossier de­tail­ing prob­lems in the man­age­ment of the province’s wildlife and na­ture re­serves.

The doc­u­ment re­veals that parks board CEO Mothobi Mothobi’s ex-girl­friend, Palesa Bo­dutu, who was pre­vi­ously a re­search of­fi­cer re­port­ing di­rectly to him, was re­cently ap­pointed gen­eral man­ager for eco­tourism.

In his de­fence, Mothobi said that, if he had not ap­pointed Bo­dutu, he would have been ac­cused of sti­fling her progress be­cause he was bit­ter that their relationship had ended. He added that Bo­dutu was “highly qual­i­fied and had met re­quire­ments”.

The doc­u­ment said he also de­manded that R488 000 be paid to Mok­gothu Com­mu­ni­ca­tions for se­cur­ing the ap­pear­ance of four celebri­ties in a 10-minute YouTube video that cost about R760 000. Mothobi said the money paid for the celebri­ties’ ap­pear­ance was worth it.

“The use of celebri­ties as en­dorse­ments has gen­er­ated pos­i­tive in­come for the board,” he said, but did not elab­o­rate.

The doc­u­ment al­leged that he also pro­moted his close as­so­ciate, Ed­ward Sek­garam­etso, to con­tracts man­ager with­out his hav­ing in­ter­viewed for the po­si­tion, and that he ap­pointed Sek­garam­etso’s sis­ter-in-law – al­leged to be a citizen of Botswana – to a se­nior po­si­tion de­spite the State Se­cu­rity Agency ad­vis­ing that she could only be em­ployed if no South African qual­i­fied for the po­si­tion.

The dossier fur­ther re­vealed that Mothobi had motivated for Africa Travel Chan­nel to be paid more for ad­ver­tis­ing, in­clud­ing just over R306 000 for three more pro­mo­tional videos. Mothobi in­sisted that no other com­pany could pro­duce videos of the same qual­ity.

How­ever the parks board’s for­mer fi­nance head, Gys van der Merwe, re­fused to make the pay­ments, de­scrib­ing them as “ir­reg­u­lar ex­pen­di­ture” be­cause the “sup­ply chain process had not been fol­lowed”.

Mothobi even­tu­ally over­ruled Van der Merwe by in­struct­ing another em­ployee to process the pay­ments.

Van der Merwe also la­belled as ir­reg­u­lar the ap­point­ment of law firms (at R1 mil­lion) for in­ter­nal dis­ci­plinary cases.

Mothobi ar­gued that the de­ci­sion to outsource had been made be­cause of a lack of ca­pac­ity within the board’s le­gal divi­sion and that the law firms were “se­lected from a panel of short-listed ser­vice providers”.

How­ever, City Press has seen in­ter­nal no­tices of the ap­point­ments of at least four law firms that state that they were ap­pointed at the rec­om­men­da­tion of the CEO.

Mothobi ac­cused Van der Merwe of hav­ing no prob­lem pay­ing white ser­vice providers whose “con­tracts started in the early 2000s and had no end date”.

“Van der Merwe paid more than R16 mil­lion to a white­owned game count­ing com­pany over six years, de­spite pref­er­en­tial pro­cure­ment leg­is­la­tion. He fur­ther failed to bill con­ces­sion­ary amounts due to the board and in­sisted on writ­ing off amounts owed to the state,” Mothobi said.

Van der Merwe said he was not au­tho­rised to sign con­tracts above R500 000 – “that is done by the CEO”.

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