/ 24 August 2018

Gauteng agriculture department to ditch security firm

Security personnel keep a lookout on Durban's Addington Beach.
Legal battle: It is alleged that not all private-security workers are represented on the sector’s bargaining council.

The Gauteng department of agriculture and rural development intends to terminate its contract with a controversial security services company.

Minutes of a department management meeting with unions last month reveal that hiring of security personnel and cleaners was discussed. A resolution was taken that the department’s contract with the Manelisi Security Group (MSG) be terminated immediately.

In September 2015, MSG, a small security firm based in Johannesburg, was awarded a R58 079 104 contract to provide security services at various departmental sites. The contract expires at the end of August, and insiders insist it has been renewed without proper process being followed. The department denies this.

The new contract with MSG is said to have been done without the necessary approval of the provincial treasury. This has raised questions about the department’s supply chain processes, insiders said.

An internal legal opinion, which supported the termination of MSG’s services, said the company was in breach of both the special and general conditions of its contract.

Moreover, the security company is facing complaints of mistreating employees and has been accused of fraud for failing to submit pension fund payments despite making deductions from salaries, forming part of a criminal investigation begun in June, though the department has denied knowledge of this.

MSG’s provident fund compliance certificate, which the company allegedly submitted last September, has led to criminal charges being laid against it by the Private Security Sector Provident Fund.

Details appear in an affidavit signed by the fund’s risk officer, Bhekumuzi Sangweni, when a case was opened at the Midrand police station last month. Sangweni confirmed this but referred questions to the fund, which did not respond to questions.

In the affidavit, Sangweni said that he became aware of a document being passed off as being from the fund. It was dated September  4 2017 and was purportedly valid for the period between September to December of the same year.

“I perused the fund’s records to verify this information and discovered that this entity was in fact not compliant as there were contributions owing to the fund for the above-mentioned periods,” Sangweni said.

On inspection, he realised the certificate was not issued by the fund’s portal and contained factual inconsistencies, including listing past trustees in the footnote.

“Upon perusing the records of the fund, and information from the compliance division, I can confirm that no compliance certificate was issued for the period in question for this entity … I accordingly ask for the South African Police Service to investigate this matter.”

MSG’s owner and director, Christopher Shezi, earlier this month dismissed the allegations as nonsense and accused the manager in the head of department’s office, Ray Halim, of targeting his company.

“This woman [Halim] has even said to my employees that she has no problems with them but rather with me,” he said.

Halim would not comment and said the department should respond.

Shezi said prior compliance issues between him and the fund had been ironed out with a payment of R1.7-million last year, which was received but never credited to MSG’s account.

“It is their own fault and we have been working with them to fix this error. I only learnt of this when former employees came back saying they could not get their pensions. My office manager was there even last week to try and sort this out,” he said.

“You can check with them, my payments are up to date. I would never deduct monies from my employees and not pay them over.”

The allegations follow earlier reports that Gauteng Premier David Makhura had to intervene to end infighting over corruption allegations levelled against staff aligned to agriculture MEC Lebogang Maile.

The department’s head, Nhlakanipho Nkontwana, was at loggerheads with Maile over a forensic report implicating the department’s chief financial officer and the chief director of communications in wrongdoing and recommending disciplinary action, while Maile insisted that the officials should only get warning letters.