Disgraced former communications minister Dina Pule and her lieutenants at the department of communications (DOC) could be in very serious trouble.
President Jacob Zuma on Thursday signed a proclamation asking the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) to probe alleged corruption involving the 2012 ICT Indaba and other controversial spending by the DOC — now known as the department of telecommunications and postal services — during Pule’s tenure as minister.
Among other things, Zuma has asked the SIU to investigate “serious maladministration” in connection with the affairs of the DOC and improper or unlawful conduct by its officials, including unlawful appropriation or expenditure of public money.
Specifically, Zuma wants the SIU to probe the donation of R10m by the communications department towards the hosting and organisation of the controversial ICT Indaba, which took place in June 2012 in Cape Town.
The SIU has been asked to probe allegations that this spending was “contrary to applicable legislation, manuals, guidelines, practice notes or instructions” issued by the national treasury and the DOC and was organised “by or through the improper intervention of employees of the department”.
In addition, the unit must look into any related unauthorised, irregular or fruitless and wasteful expenditure incurred by the department or which resulted in the improper enrichment of parties involved in the hosting and organisation of the ICT Indaba.
One of the central allegations to emerge against Pule was that her romantic partner at the time, Phosane Mngqibisa, benefited to the tune of R6m from funds provided by corporate sponsors of the indaba.
A forensic report by law firm Werksmans found that Mngqibisa claimed the funds as a “management fee” having received access to the account for the event through its primary organiser, Carol Bouwer, thanks to pressure exerted by Pule.
Zuma also wants the corruption-fighting unit to investigate travel and accommodation expenses or other benefits that were paid by the DOC to anyone who did not qualify for it. Mngqibisa travelled internationally with Pule at taxpayers’ expense.
A year ago, parliament’s ethics committee found that Mngqibisa, through Pule’s influence, gained improper financial benefit. In particular, he benefited improperly from the R6m and through the DOC paying for his overseas trips and accommodation, the committee said.
The president has also asked the SIU to probe:
- The recruitment, selection and appointment of an employee to a position that did not exist in the communications unit of the department.
- Improper or unlawful conduct by an official of the department that resulted in it purportedly breaching a contract concluded between the department and a company called Gitshasbaya Consulting.
- Improper or unlawful conduct by employees or officials of the department or third parties relating to the recruitment, selection and appointment of the chief financial officer of the SABC on 14 February 2012. (Earlier this year, public protector Thuli Madonsela found that Gugu Duda had been appointed irregularly as CFO — she was not an applicant for the job and was interviewed only long after the recruitment process had been closed. This appeared to have happened at Pule’s insistence. The appointment was “unlawful”, Madonsela said.)
- The procurement of and payment for services related to the ‘Nkowankowa event’ held in Limpopo on 21 June 2013 and a World Telecommunications and Information Society Day event held in Richards Bay in KwaZulu-Natal on 17 May 2013.
According to its website, the SIU can take civil action to correct any wrongdoing it uncovers in its investigations. For example, it can obtain a court order to compel a person to pay back any wrongful benefit received and thus recover the money for the state.
The SIU’s primary mandate is to recover and prevent financial losses to the state caused by corruption, fraud and maladministration. Where criminal conduct is uncovered, it will refer this to the Hawks and the South Africa Police Service. It works closely with the Asset Forfeiture Unit to recover the proceeds of crime.
Last year, Zuma removed Pule as his communications minister. She later resigned as an ordinary member of parliament, saying she wished to live her life “in peace”. — © 2014 NewsCentral Media