/ 14 November 2018

Manyi says corruption happened under Phumla Williams’ watch

Déjà vu: In 2013
In addition to implicating Williams, Manyi was at pains to distance himself from alleged irregularities, emphasising several times that they had happened before he came on board. (Delwyn Verasamy/M&G)

Former government communication and information systems (GCIS) chief executive Mzwanele Manyi says large-scale corruption at the GCIS happened under the watch of acting GCIS head Phumla Williams.

Manyi was giving evidence before the commission of inquiry into state capture — chaired by Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo — on Wednesday.

The focal point of Manyi’s testimony was the “dramatic changes” he made when he took over at GCIS which he says did not sit well with Williams.

Manyi said he decided to keep Williams on as the chair of the bid adjudication committee — which gives final approval on tenders — because there were no complaints against her. It became apparent to him, however, that something went “horribly wrong in the procurement process” with service providers that were not being screened.

According to Manyi, the irregular tenders ended up costing the government over R7-million in what he describes as a “typical mini-VBS”.

Manyi described himself as a “person who believes in a doing culture. Not this thing of tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow”, so he immediately asked national treasury to conduct an in-depth investigation into the tenders with these service providers.

Treasury found that there were indeed irregularities, according to Manyi, such as how one of the service providers was registered as a company days before being put in the GCIS system for tenders. An amount of R26-million was allegedly paid to this company within days of being entered into the system which Manyi says was signed off by Williams.

Manyi added the investigation found that Statistics South Africa paid R64-million to a service provider for work that was not done for GCIS.

Treasury reportedly found that splitting of invoices, so as not to raise its attention to exorbitant costs, was a common practice at GCIS.

Manyi said based on these findings and others that treasury had made about irregular procurement, he dismantled the bid committee.

Manyi continued, saying corruption was happening under the watch of Williams’ and other committee members, despite Williams describing her team as competent and committed.

“All this was in the empire of Ms Williams because all supply chains reported to her, no checks and balances, nothing,” Manyi testified.

In addition to implicating Williams, Manyi was at pains to distance himself from alleged irregularities, emphasising several times that they had happened before he came on board.

“These are things that happened in January before I arrived. Every rule that could be broken was broken. It was a monumental disaster”, he said.

Manyi said he was “overwhelmingly disappointed” to hear to Williams challenging, in 2018, a decision [of dismantling the committee] made in 2011 that was made with the department’s best interests and for the sake of good governance.

In August, Williams testified before the commission that Manyi was introduced as the new director general of the department before Themba Maseko was removed from his position in January 2011.

READ MORE: #StateCaptureInquiry: Manyi was waiting to take Maseko’s place — Phumla Williams

But Manyi has disputed this claim, arguing the truthfulness of the claim that Maseko left GCIS in January when in actuality he left on February 3.

During his testimony, Manyi produced a press statement by Cabinet dated February 3 2011 which announced Maseko’s departure from GCIS as evidence of his argument.

“This should put to bed any issue about when Mr Maseko left. Here is concrete evidence.”

Manyi further reiterated that he did not ask to be moved from his then position as director general of in the labour ministry but that since he didn’t see eye to eye with the minister, he was placed on special leave. He said when he was approached by former Minister in the Presidency Collins Chabane, to tell him he was being redeployed, he did not resist because this was a horizontal move and he was at home at that time, “doing nothing.”

Manyi is scheduled to testify again on November 23 as per the commission’s schedule. He had received correspondence alerting him to an opening for him to appear on Wednesday to respond to certain allegations made against him.

The commission’s legal team had initially said it was not going to hear his testimony but following his appeal to Zondo, Manyi was granted the opportunity to give evidence.