Parliamentary officials have demanded that the Post Office chairman pay back money lost through the resignations of top officials.
Simosezwe Lushaba faced angry standing committee on public accounts (Scopa) members who questioned the disciplinary processes at the organisation.
On Lushaba’s watch, losses at the Post Office climbed to R1,4bn, which was blamed on corrupt managers who have since left the state-owned entity.
Lushaba told Scopa that disciplinary processes costing about R3m against the former CEO and financial officer resulted in the two eventually resigning.
“Chairperson, you say to us, because of their seniority, you had to waste taxpayer’s money of about R3m. What type of logic is that?” seethed Scopa member Nyamezela Booi.
“I thought that South Africans would take full responsibility; we thought that our officials would take full responsibility.”
“Chair, R3m is not peanuts to me. It was precisely because it got to those numbers that the board was worried and continuing those processes would have actually escalated those costs,” Lushaba said in his response.
He said that the disciplinary process was hampered by onerous demands of documentation and the organisation could not have regular hearings as it could afford to pay the external chairman.
The auditor-general found serious financial irregularities at the Post Office, with R576.8m in irregular expenditure and R95m in fruitless and wasteful expenditure.
The AG also found regression in key areas of strategic planning, asset and liability management, and internal audit, among others.
“Were there consequences for this dereliction of duty? Because if there weren’t, I’d be seriously worried,” fumed Scopa member Mkhuleko Hlengwa.
“Do the people that you have employed have the capacity — the skills, knowledge and expertise — just to follow simply which they are employed on the basis of?” he added.
“We did everything we could possibly do to ensure that the hearings sat and when they sat, there was actually enough evidence, enough witnesses to come to the hearings to give evidence that was required,” said Lushaba.
“The waste comes at the end because there’s no conclusion of the disciplinary process because people resign and there’s no conclusion of the disciplinary process,” he added.
He told Scopa that the chief financial officer was paid about R1,7m upon resignation, though the amount also included accumulated leave days, estimated at R300 000.
“There have been no consequences; that’s where the taxpayer’s money is coming in. You are the one who has wasted that money,” said Booi.
“Can we get that money from you because those people are not available. You allowed them to resign with no consequences. Can we get that money from you?”
Scopa chairman Themba Godi questioned the hiring practices that allowed people to engage in activities which contravened key legislation, internal policies and regulations.
“My problem is if you put into position of responsibility a guy who’s a drunkard and the next thing you charge him with being drunk, why should I focus on him and not focus on you who put him there in the first instance?
“How did those people find themselves into those positions? What level of integrity do we look for in people before we give them positions of responsibility?”
“I fully agree that this is not an ideal outcome. It’s not what we wanted; it’s not what I wanted. We wanted to hold those executives accountable for what we think were serious transgressions at the Post Office,” said Lushaba.