Rugby inquiry starts without Van Rooyen

The South African Rugby Union’s (Saru) disciplinary inquiry into corporate mismanagement allegations against its former president, Brian van Rooyen, started in his absence in Bloemfontein on Tuesday.

Neither Van Rooyen nor any of his legal representatives were present when the proceedings started before former chief justice Joos Hefer at the offices of the Free State Rugby Union.

The inquiry comes after Van Rooyen was found guilty of corporate mismanagement during an internal investigation by Saru, but a wider investigation was ordered under the adjudication of Hefer.

The disciplinary matter relates to alleged breaches of the codes of conduct of the board of directors of SA Rugby, the executive arm, and Saru.

Eleven charges against Van Rooyen were aired on Tuesday.

They all relate to him allegedly failing to perform the functions of his office in good faith as well as failing to act in the best interests of both SA Rugby and Saru.

The first charge detailed allegations that Van Rooyen initiated and promoted the establishment of an office for the president of Saru in Johannesburg at the premises of Labat Africa — where Van Rooyen was MD.

Other allegations dealt with an attempt by Van Rooyen to obtain a luxury Rover motor vehicle for his own use in breach of an existing sponsorship agreement, as well as signing certain Saru and SA Rugby agreements in 2004 and 2005 without authorisation.

Details contained in additional charges allege Van Rooyen promised bonuses to the Springbok rugby team and management without authority in 2004. The allocation of a Tri-Nations Test to the Leopards Rugby Union in 2005 and wilfully making false statements to Springbok coach Jake White also came under the inquiry’s spotlight.

Christo Ferreira, SA Rugby’s manager for legal services, said Van Rooyen’s absence was unfortunate.

”In terms of our regulations the defendant has a choice to be at the disciplinary hearing or not. It would have been first prize if he could have stated his side of the story, but the process must go on.”

Ferreira said the claims still stand against Van Rooyen even if he is not involved with Saru at this stage. ”This does not make him less accountable.”

He said the inquiry is still relevant, even in Van Rooyen’s absence, because he could become involved with rugby again.

However, Van Rooyen indicated that he would not be present at the inquiry.

”His lawyers indicated in a letter to Saru that he was not prepared to submit to any inquiry in the absence of a full indemnification of all his legal costs,” an SA Rugby statement said on Monday.

Saru has declined his request for indemnification.

Ferreira said the president’s council decided that the costs would be too much for SA Rugby if it had to pay his legal costs as well. According to him, Van Rooyen wanted the council to pay his attorney’s cost as well as that of a junior and senior counsel.

Two witnesses were expected to testify on Tuesday. They were Basil Haddat, an SA Rugby official, and Jannie Lubbe of the auditing firm KPMG.

Former deputy president of Saru Andre Markgraaff and former SA Rugby board chairperson Theunie Lategan are expected to testify on Wednesday. — Sapa

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