Minister refers Seta 'corruption' to Scorpions

Minister of Labour Membathisi Mdladlana has referred allegations of corruption at a sectoral education and training authority (Seta), involving at least R13,7-million, to the Scorpions for further investigation.

He has also given the board of the tourism, hospitality and sport education and training authority (Theta) two weeks from Wednesday to study a forensic report by the auditor general and act on its findings. Failing this, he would place the Seta under administration.

Speaking at a media briefing in Bryanston, Mdladlana said the matter could not be left unattended. “I’m really saddened by these events, these developments ...
In the meantime, we must ensure the law takes its course.”

Mdladlana also criticised the Theta’s board, saying he did not understand its inaction since the matter was first reported to the department in October 2004.

The board includes high-profile figures such as the director general of the South African Sports Commission, Joe Phahla; South African Commercial, Catering and Allied Workers’ Union president Amos Mothapa; National African Federation Chamber of Commerce and Industry secretary general Buhle Mthethwa; National African Council of Trade Unions leader Mahlomola Skosana; and Association of South African Travel Agents chief executive Marion McPherson.

“They are senior members of the board. Why can’t they deal with the matter?” asked Mdladlana. “They are all in business; they should have seen these problems immediately.”

The Theta board had a fiduciary responsibility, one it seemed to be neglecting, he added.

“Maybe it will be a lesson to board members of Setas that they have a responsibility. It’s easy to blame the minister of labour sometimes, even though he does not sit on these boards,” Mdladlana said.

He has also written to the ministers of sport and tourism to complain about some of these board members, who he said also did not show up for board meetings.

The minister expressed his confidence that the Scorpions will deal firmly with anyone involved in fraud in this case and recover from them money that had been meant for training.

Mdladlana said it appears Theta chief executive Mike Tsotetsi—whom he did not name—awarded a tender to a company that submitted its bid late. Tsotetsi was also warned that the entity, Nomvuyo Molefe and Associates (NMA), was not accredited as required in the request for proposals and lacked the capacity to deliver on the project.

“The NMA submitted its tender late and Mr Cecil Harris, the person responsible for the tender, did not accept it; the chief executive is alleged to have lied to the tender committee that Mr Harris recommended the tender despite the late submission. With this in mind, the tender committee accepted the application,” Mdladlana said.

“Despite the advice of the Integrated Nature-Based Tourism and Conservation Management Development [Intac] not to appoint NMA due to their lack of capacity and accreditation, it was awarded the biggest part of the tender to the value of R13-million.

“The NMA did not apparently deliver according to the service-level agreement, and management at Intac recommended that NMA should not be paid, but the chief executive went against the advice and made payments.”

Mdladlana would not answer questions about any links between Tsotetsi and NMA, saying that is for the Scorpions to discover.

He was also quick to draw a line between corruption at Setas and their performance generally. He explained that the Theta has never been suspect in its performance, but has “always” been so administratively. “So, it has always been under our eyes as far as administration is concerned.”

The Seta has also already twice been called to explain itself to the Scorpions.

Mdladlana said his department acts firmly against corruption. A former Eastern Cape provincial director was this year sentenced to 20 years’ imprisonment for corrupt acts committed in the 1990s. The former chief executive and chief financial officer of the Seta covering forestry are also currently jailed for 20-year terms.

“You always make a fatal mistake that allows us to pin you down,” Mdladlana said, pressing his thumb on the table to emphasise the point.

Tsotetsi was appointed acting Theta chief executive in late 2003. The position was later confirmed. He previously represented the Entertainment, Commercial Catering and Allied Workers’ Union of South Africa on the wholesale and retail Seta.—Sapa

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