/ 1 August 2005

Oilgate: FF+ to charge Imvume with fraud

The Freedom Front Plus says it is to lay a charge of fraud against Imvume Management, the company involved in the so-called Oilgate scandal, in Cape Town on Monday.

“If you ask for money for a specific purpose and you use that money for something else, that would constitute fraud,” party MP and spokesperson on minerals and energy Willie Spies said on Sunday.

“It just doesn’t make sense for R11-million to disappear and nobody to be held accountable.

“We hope this is part of a process to get to the real truth, even if it takes five years,” he said.

The Mail & Guardian reported earlier this year that South Africa’s state oil company, PetroSA, irregularly paid R15-million to Imvume Management, a company closely tied to the African National Congress, at a time when the party was desperate for funds to fight last year’s elections.

Imvume allegedly paid about R11-million of this to the ANC shortly before the elections.

Spies said PetroSA had not acted in bad faith when it made the payment to Imvume.

“So, they must have acted on the representations made to them by Imvume as an advance payment for the contract,” Spies added.

PetroSA’s management reportedly paid Imvume the money as an advance for the procurement of oil condensate.

Challenge to report

Meanwhile, the M&G on Friday challenged the public protector to a public debate on its report into the Oilgate saga, which the newspaper called “rather meaningless”.

Earlier in the day, Public Protector Lawrence Mushwana told reporters at the release of the report that he found no evidence of wrongdoing in the scandal, involving a payment by black empowerment company Imvume Management to the African National Congress.

“The ANC and Imvume are not public entities, they do not perform public functions and are not part of any level of government.

“The state has no shareholding in Imvume,” Mushwana said, reading from the report.

“The alleged payment was clearly made by one private entity to another and could therefore not have had any bearing on state affairs.”

M&G editor Ferial Haffajee said on Friday she stands by the newspaper’s investigation, and looks forward to testifying on Oilgate before Parliament’s minerals committee in September.

“In its press statement, the protector says that much of what was published by the M&G was ‘factually inaccurate, based on incomplete information and document and comprised of unsubstantiated suggestions and unspecified speculation’.

“We find it extremely strange that the public protector makes such a serious allegation without once having attempted to contact the newspaper.”

She said the M&G is taking legal advice in this regard.

“The actual report [also] fails to mention a single factual inaccuracy.”

The M&G said the protector’s report bears all the hallmarks of a whitewash.

“In fact, it is little more than a restatement of the government’s version of events.

“The thrust of the report is to find excuses for the government rather than getting to bottom of our investigation, which we maintain shows the misuse of public money to benefit the ANC before last year’s election.”