The controversy-racked Commission for Gender Equality (CGE) is plagued by new woes with chairperson Nomboniso Gasa accused by employees of graft.
In a letter sent to Parliament by three whistleblowers who have since been sacked, Gasa is accused of defrauding the CGE and of allowing payments to a supplier — with whom she allegedly has personal ties — to be inflated.
This comes less than a year after management crises at the CGE led to then chief executive Chana Majake being frog-marched from the commission’s headquarters.
“The allegations that have been placed by the Mail & Guardian are absolutely untrue,” said Gasa, responding from New York this week. She promised to invite the M&G, on her return, to peruse documents in her possession that would show the “allegations to be malicious”. She questioned the timing of the allegations against her and promised to “unpack” them.
The M&G has a copy of a memorandum sent by three CGE staffers last October to President Kgalema Motlanthe, Justice Minister Enver Surty and Parliament asking that Gasa be relieved of her duties because of various allegations of mismanagement.
The memorandum says staff members have lost confidence in Gasa and accuse her of undermining the CGE Act “and other public service legislation and policies”, and of “interfering with the administrative duties of the CGE, which in terms of the Act should be the responsibility of the CEO”.
Last December the three whistleblowers were suspended and then sacked last month from the CGE, which at the time was jointly managed by acting chief executives Jane Hicks and Portia Loyilane. The two, who are both CGE commissioners, were appointed after Majake’s sacking last April.
The whistleblowers then sent a letter to the Parliament’s standing committee on security and constitutional development, levelling accusations of graft against Gasa. On January 19 the committee’s chairperson, Kgoshi Mathupa Mokoena, wrote to Gasa requesting her appearance in Parliament. “I received complaints from staff members raising serious allegations that cannot be ignored by Parliament,” states the letter from Mokoena. He confirmed to the M&G this week that he had written to Gasa and scheduled a hearing for February 18 but had postponed this at Surty’s request.
Surty’s spokesperson, Zolile Nqayi, confirmed that Surty “advised” Mokoena that he would look into the matter and that a commission had been set up to look at issues within the CGE. “The minister advised the chairperson that the [Harris Commission’s] report may be useful to the select committee when it hears the allegations and that the assigned officials be given an opportunity to resolve the issues. The decision to postpone was a decision made by the committee,” said Nqayi.
In their letter to the standing committee the three whistleblowers accuse Gasa of pocketing R25 000 the CGE had apparently given her on the understanding that this was for upgrading her airticket to Geneva late last year. Documents in the M&G‘s possession show that Gasa was paid the amount as a cash cheque, but a source in the GCE’s finance department said Gasa had never submitted the necessary invoices.
The letter also accuses Gasa of using the CGE’s money to finance air travel last August and in January for friends and family members to the tune of nearly R42 000. The M&G is in possession of documentation showing the approval of the trips by Gasa’s office and the CGE’s finance department, which labelled them business travel.
The M&G has seen the names of the travellers and their travel company invoices, and has ascertained that the travellers are not employed by CGE.
The whistleblowers also told the standing committee that Gasa approved a private trip by the director in her office, Nomkhitha Mapheelle, to the Eastern Cape in November last year that had nothing to do with CGE business.
Gasa also allegedly overpaid a consulting company with which she has personal ties by more than R3-million, according to the whistleblowers’ letter.
Documents in the possession of the M&G show that Four Rivers Trading, which has political analysts and sisters Mohau and Lebohang Pheko as directors, was originally scheduled to carry out an “organisational diagnostic” for R1.2-million but was eventually paid close to R4-million. The whistleblowers say Gasa and Mohau Pheko are “old friends”.