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Soobrayan is not out of the woods yet

Another investigation by the Public Service Commission (PSC) into former basic education director general Bobby Soobrayan’s role in the awarding of a workbooks tender might reveal that, despite earlier departmental statements, his name has not actually been “cleared”.

Soobrayan said he has never been questioned for this investigation, which is separate from another investigation by the commission into his role in the 2012 textbooks crisis.

The Mail & Guardian first heard about the second investigation from an anonymous source within the commission this week.

This was confirmed by spokesperson Ricardo Mahlakanya: “The PSC has commenced with the second investigation against … Soobrayan relating to the ­awarding of a tender by the department of basic education, at the request of the former minister for public service and administration [Lindiwe Sisulu].”

On March 31 this year the department issued a statement which said investigations into Soobrayan’s role in the textbooks crisis, among other education calamities, had been “finalised” and had “cleared the DG”.

It said Soobrayan had asked to be redeployed because “his name has been cleared” and Angie Motshekga had acceded to his request.

One of these investigations was done by the commission and looked into the “nondelivery and delays in delivery of textbooks to Limpopo schools”. The M&G has seen the report, which said Soobrayan’s “conduct … as accounting officer for the [department], in the circumstances was reasonable”.

Soobrayan said he had heard about the second investigation last year but assumed it was “not happening any more”.

“In a letter dated 22 April 2013, Sisulu, representing Sadtu’s wishes, asked the PSC to investigate the allegation that I ‘awarded a R243-million tender to Lebone Group Holdings, a company allegedly co-founded by Salama Hendricks, the director general’s former fiancée’s mother’,” he said.

He denied the allegation, saying other investigations had cleared the tender process and that Motshekga had accepted this.

“Despite reservations, the minister said the PSC could investigate … I have never been contacted by the PSC to this day … It is therefore strange that the PSC now informs you that they [have commenced] with the investigation,” he said.

Departmental spokesperson Elijah Mhlanga declined to comment, saying: “The PSC is in a better position to respond to your questions.”

Mahlakanya said he did not know how long the commission’s investigation into Soobrayan would take.

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Victoria John
Victoria studied journalism, specialising in photojournalism, at Rhodes University from 2004 to 2007. After traveling around the US and a brief stint in the UK she did a year's internship at The Independent on Saturday in Durban. She then worked as a reporter for the South African Press Association for a year before joining the Mail & Guardian as an education reporter in August 2011.

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