Om­bud PA sits pretty in busi­ness class

Mail & Guardian - - News - Sa­belo Sk­iti

Aper­sonal as­sis­tant at the trou­bled sta­te­owned Com­mu­nity Schemes Om­buds­man Ser­vices (CSOS) flew busi­ness class dur­ing a state­spon­sored trip to Aus­tralia.

CSOS staff al­lege Palesa Ma­betha, for whom a R34 000 econ­omy re­turn ticket had been booked, was given a busi­ness class ticket hours be­fore she and the rest of the group boarded their flights home.

The new ticket, on Emi­rates Air­ways, cost an ex­tra R67 000 and the CSOS’s sus­pended act­ing chief om­bud, Seeng Letele, used the paras­tatal’s cor­po­rate card to pay for it.

This con­tra­venes a trea­sury in­struc­tion that stip­u­lates busi­ness class tick­ets on flights longer than five hours are only for board mem­bers and other spe­cific se­nior staff.

Ma­betha’s flights, to­gether with the wasted econ­omy class ticket, came to just over R101 000. Her ac­com­mo­da­tion and per diem were R71000 and R21000, re­spec­tively.

Ma­betha is the PA to chief fi­nan­cial of­fi­cer Themba Mabuya, who has also been sus­pended. Her em­ploy­ment is also prob­lem­atic be­cause she has failed to pro­duce a copy of her ma­tric cer­tifi­cate for more than a year.

Ma­betha’s trip cost the CSOS R23 000 more than the aver­age amount spent on the rest of the group, who went on a seven-day study tour to Aus­tralia in Fe­bru­ary.

Ma­betha was the only of­fice ad­min­is­tra­tor on the trip, which it­self is now the sub­ject of an in­ter­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion ini­ti­ated by the board’s au­dit com­mit­tee af­ter the sus­pen­sion of Mabuya and Letele.

“The group was con­stantly late for en­gage­ments — twice in Mel­bourne — and even went to the wrong venues be­cause she [Ma­betha] is so in­ept ... They looked so dis­or­gan­ised, wast­ing the state’s money. She never con­firmed meet­ings, venues or trans­port, and it’s baf­fling what she was there for,” said a CSOS em­ployee, who asked not to be named.

An­other source ques­tioned the ben­e­fit of the trip be­cause the board had less than six months left to serve.

Two sources, speak­ing in­de­pen­dently, said Ma­betha’s em­ploy­ment was also con­tentious be­cause she had been ap­pointed with­out a for­mal in­ter­view process. As a re­sult, CSOS’s hu­man re­sources depart­ment was still wait­ing for a copy of her ma­tric cer­tifi­cate.

“It is said that they [Letele and Ma­betha] are re­lated, but what I do know is that ad­vo­cate [Letele] in­structed that she be em­ployed,” said one of the sources.

“She was a real em­bar­rass­ment be­cause in the of­fice you can hear her call for the other PAs to come help her when­ever she had to do some­thing as sim­ple as draft an email.”

The CSOS said there was “an in­de­pen­dent foren­sic in­ves­ti­ga­tion into al­leged mis­con­duct in re­spect of ad­vo­cate Seeng Letele and Mr Themba Mabuya (cur­rently serv­ing pre­cau­tion­ary sus­pen­sion). It is an­tic­i­pated that the in­ves­ti­ga­tion will con­clude at the end of Oc­to­ber.”

Letele de­nied the al­le­ga­tions, de­scrib­ing them as “ma­li­cious”, and Ma­betha de­clined to com­ment. Mabuya did not re­spond to phone calls and ques­tions texted to him.

Letele’s and Mabuya’s sus­pen­sion re­lates to their in­volve­ment in the un­law­ful in­vest­ment of R80-mil­lion of the or­gan­i­sa­tion’s sur­plus funds with the se­ques­trated VBS Mu­tual Bank in con­tra­ven­tion of CSOS’s own pol­icy. It is al­leged that, in a re­port to Hu­man Set­tle­ments Min­is­ter No­main­dia Mfeketo, a board res­o­lu­tion was al­tered to make it seem as though the pol­icy al­lowed them to do so. The Mail & Guardian has es­tab­lished that Letele and Mabuya were us­ing CSOS cor­po­rate cards de­spite be­ing sus­pended and that Letele had a cor­po­rate card made for her­self with­out the or­gan­i­sa­tion’s knowl­edge. The M&G has seen emails be­tween board mem­bers dis­cussing the unau­tho­rised is­su­ing of the sec­ond card, which can only be done by the CSOS’s fi­nance depart­ment.

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