Questions raised over Manyi's hiring practices

Jimmy Manyi. (David Harrison, M&G)

Jimmy Manyi. (David Harrison, M&G)

Government communications’ boss Jimmy Manyi has been accused of organising jobs for pals by hiring associates to senior positions in the Government Communication and Information System (GCIS)—the government communications agency—one of whom has already been asked to account for irregular expenditure amounting to R500 000.

Agency staff claim that Manyi has appointed associates from the Black Management Forum (BMF), of which he is president, the department of labour, where he was formerly director general, and from Tiger Brands, where Manyi was group executive of corporate affairs.

Among the appointments are Penny Ntuli, who is chief director for the human development cluster at the agency, media liaison officer Mzobanzi Jikazana, and business-person Ayanda Holo, who is new provincial director in the Western Cape.

Ntuli worked with Manyi at Tiger Brands as group communications manager and also at the labour department as director in his office, while Jikazana was the labour department’s spokesperson during former minister Membathisi Mdladlana’s tenure, when Manyi was director general. Sources say Ayanda Holo is a BMF member.

They claim that Holo does not have the experience in senior management to justify his appointment as provincial director and that he has no idea how government ­bureaucracy operates.

Holo started working at the communications agency in October 2011 and was being “investigated” for irregular expenditure of about R500 000 of its funds in January this year. Sources claim there were about 30 to 50 audit queries related to procurement.

Manyi rejected as “substantively and factually incorrect” the allegations of Holo’s irregular expenditure, but said that the agency was aware of “some shortcomings” in procurement processes in the Western Cape branch. An investigation had been conducted and preliminary findings had indicated no wrongdoing on Holo’s part. He said some of the issues related to supply chain problems and checks and balances in the provincial office, which Holo inherited on assuming duty. “Mr Holo is not in any way being asked to account for any monies.”

Manyi said that the first time he had “any decent conversation” with Holo was on the day of the interview.

“Be that as it may, it is not an offence for people that I know to apply for advertised positions, follow due process and be appointed if they meet all the requirements for those positions,” he said. Manyi said that Holo might very well be one of thousands of “talented” BMF members he had interacted with during the organisation’s conferences. While denying recruiting from the BMF, Manyi said this was “a great pity because the BMF has enormous talent”.

Manyi said Holo had the relevant experience, both managerial and in communication. Holo’s appointment, he said, was a panel, not an individual, decision.

“It is impossible for any individual to overrule the panel, because each member compiles an independent assessment and score.”

The M&G understands that the Western Cape GCIS has no working relationship with the Western Cape provincial government or that government’s communications team.

While director of strategic communication for the Western Cape government, Nick Clelland-Stokes couldn’t confirm this, he admitted that it does not have a “day-to-day” relationship, but is working on an ad hoc basis with GCIS.

“We speak, the door is open, we take their calls and they take ours,” said Clelland-Stokes.

On the subject of other employees mentioned, Manyi said the agency’s human resources policy provides that candidates must disclose prior acquaintanceship during the interviews and that in the applicable cases such disclosure had been made.

He said that in all three cases proper recruitment processes were followed. “There was a fully constituted interviewing panel for each and all members, which independently scored and assessed the candidates.” In the cases of Ntuli and Holo, senior officials from other departments participated in the panel to ensure greater transparency.

“It is insulting to my fellow panellists and colleagues to insinuate that I am endowed with extraordinary persuasive and supernatural powers to simultaneously influence their collective judgment.

Manyi changed the composition of the agency’s bid adjudication committee and replaced all its previous members, allegedly with people close to him, including Ntuli, who is still on probation. Manyi said the committee had been changed to comply with treasury regulations and sound ­governance principles.

Previously, he said, the committee had on it staff members who had an inherent conflict of interest. He said the officials who served on the new committee were not his associates, pointing out that the committee was reconstituted after consultation with executive committee members.

He argued that there were no public-service prescriptions prohibiting people on probation from taking responsibilities over and above their primary responsibilities.

Contacted for comment, Jikazana denied that his past with Manyi had secured him the job saying he had applied for the post.

“I got it [the job] on merit, I would imagine. I do the same thing I was doing at the labour department, which is communicating with the media.”

Ntuli said she was not aware of the allegations. “I have no idea of what you are talking about,” she said before the line cut off. Holo refused to comment.

A previous version of this article’s headline read: “Manyi in jobs-for-pals scandal”. We regret the error.

Charles Molele

Charles Molele

Charles Molele is a senior politics reporter at the Mail & Guardian. Charles joined the paper in 2011. He has covered general news, court and politics for the past 19 years, and also worked as a senior reporter for the Saturday Star, Sunday World, ThisDay, Sunday Times and is former politics editor of the New Age. Charles's other career highlights include covering Kenya's violent general elections (2007/08), Zimbabwe’s sham general elections (2008), Mozambique's food riots (2010) and the historic re-election of US President Barack Obama (2012).
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