/ 7 March 2015

Nuclear regulator CEO criticises M&G report

Bismark Tyobeka
Bismark Tyobeka

“We all have a democratic right to choose where we want to work, and that cannot be simply taken away because of some imaginary conflict of interest, merely aimed at selling more newspapers,” National Nuclear Regulator chief executive Bismark Tyobeka said in a statement on Friday, referring to a Mail & Guardian report.

He confirmed in a statement on Friday that his wife, Ngeniswa Tyobeka, had been appointed as a junior HR business partner at the Nuclear Energy Corporation of SA (Necsa).

“The … position is a support function, which does not in any way contribute to issues of nuclear regulation and safety, so, immediately, conflict of interest does not arise,” he said.
A whistleblower reportedly told the newspaper that Necsa hired her for a position that “did not exist on the approved Necsa organisational structure”.

The whistleblower claimed the position was “unbudgeted and unfunded, which translates into [an] irregular appointment and unauthorised expenditure”.
The NNR is responsible for national regulatory framework to protect people, property and the environment against nuclear damage.

‘No one man show’
The Mail & Guardian reported that the appointment could cloud his judgement when he made decisions regarding Necsa, which paid his wife a R490 000 annual salary.
Ngeniswa was appointed to Necsa last year, Her husband had been the head of the NNR since 2013.

“The NNR … is not a one man show, as the M&G would like the public to believe. There are adequate checks and balances to ensure that the decisions taken are transparent and based on sound technical basis,” Bismark Tyobeka said.

NNR inspectors were empowered by the NNR Act to enforce compliance without consulting the chief executive, he said.

“The role of the CEO only comes into the picture when such a decision is being appealed by the operator … So to portray the CEO of the NNR as having unfettered unilateral powers to shut down an operator is simply fallacious.”

He said his brother had worked at management in Necsa since 1992.
“Does this mean I should not have accepted the position of CEO of NNR because my brother works there?” he asked.
The whistleblower reportedly told the newspaper that Necsa had a shortfall of R82-million this month, partly due to a “growing salary bill” caused by “unbudgeted and unfunded created [job] vacancies”.

Necsa criticised the disclosure of the company’s private information.
“We deplore the unethical disclosure [of] Necsa’s private information apparently by some staff members and others who have access to it, mainly for the purposes of slander,” it said.

Necsa said Ngeniswa was appointed “in a process of aligning the organisational structure with the strategy approved by the board”.

Necsa’s corporate services divisional executive Xolisa Mabhongo was described in the report as being “very close friends” with the Tyobekas.
Mabhongo apparently met the couple in Vienna, Austria, during his tenure as South African ambassador to the country between 2010 and 2014.

Bismark Tyobeka said his wife had worked at the South African embassy, under Mabhongo.
Ngeniswa Tyobeka currently worked in the corporate services department, where Mabhongo was an executive.
“Mrs Tyobeka applied for positions at Necsa long before the arrival of Mr Mabhongo,” Necsa said in a statement.

“By the time Mr Mabhongo joined Necsa, Mrs Tyobeka’s appointment was already at a very advanced stage with interviews and panel discussions concluded.”
She was interviewed twice at Necsa in November 2013 for a different post. She was interviewed again in February 2014 for the position she was currently in.

She joined Necsa on June 6 2014, the company said. – Sapa