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28 Jan 2005 07:50
Mpumalanga’s Economic Empowerment Corporation (Meec) this week backtracked on a public pledge by suppressing a damning forensic report on fraud and corruption at the corporation.
The PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC) audit report was meant to be publicly released on Wednesday, but has been withheld from staff and the board of the embattled parastatal.
Meec chief executive Ernest Khosa, who is being probed in connection with a series of irregular multimillion- rand loans, instead “questioned” board directors on aspects of the reportâ€™s findings.
He also briefed one of the key figures in the scandal, deputy Meec chairperson Nora Fakude-Nkuna, at his Pretoria mansion on Sunday. More junior board members were quizzed telephonically about their receipt of Meec loans, travel allowances and other benefits.
Khosa was consistently unavailable for comment this week, and has not answered 80 written questions focusing on allegations of nepotism, irregular tenders, fraudulent loans and his jet-setting lifestyle at taxpayersâ€™ expense.
Khosa also refused to confirm or deny eyewitness accounts of suspected bribery involving him, including the handover of suitcases of cash at secret meetings in an underground parkade and a truck-stop restaurant.
His only public response has been a terse announcement on Saturday of his “pending” resignation from the Meec.
Khosa told Meec staff on Monday he had been compelled to resign because of the media’s negative reporting on his personal affairs, but declined to say when he would step down.
The Meec’s contracted image consultant, Dominic Ntsele, added that Khosa would leave South Africa immediately after his resignation, joining his wife and children in Britain.
“[Khosa] is not running away; he simply believes he has become a hindrance, that he is too tainted to continue.
He confirmed Fakude-Nkuna and other board directors were also expected to resign shortly.
Fakude-Nkuna refused to comment, but is being investigated by PWC in connection with her alleged receipt of three loans totalling R4-million. The largest, for R2,8-million, was initially disguised as a grant for her daughter’s Interstate Clearing 056 vehicle dealership.
However, the general manager of Fakude-Nkuna’s Bohlabela Wheels holding company, Cobus Vosloo, told investigators she was in fact chairperson of Interstate Clearing and at least two other companies that received additional Meec loans totalling another R1,2-million.
The Scorpions are also probing the deals. Fakude-Nkuna is refusing to answer 40 questions on the issue, but has protested her innocence through her lawyers. She handed in her resignation to the Meec board on Thursday.
Other board members implicated in the scandal include Simon Mofokeng, who allegedly negotiated a R4,3-million loan for his wife’s company without declaring his interest, and Steve Sikhosana, who has ignored court orders to repay a R1-million loan. Two other board members allegedly received smaller loans in violation of Meec regulations.
Mpumalanga’s new economic development, William Lubisi, met Meecchairperson Sylvester Sithole on Wednesday night to discuss the unfolding crisis.
“We cannot yet comment on the outcome of the PWC report, because we still have to study it, but we will not hesitate to call in the asset forfeiture unit or other law enforcement agencies to recover potential losses,” said Lubisi’s spokesperson, Tom Nkosi.
“A resignation, and even leaving the country, does not place you beyond the reach of the law.”—African Eye News Service
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