Mkhwebane has done it again

Free pass: Money was allegedly paid into the account of Nompumelelo Ntuli, one of Jacob Zuma’s wives, by Zuma benefactor Mabheleni Ntuli, after he was paid by Carol Bouwer Productions. Photo: Yunus Mohamed/ Foto24/Gallo

Free pass: Money was allegedly paid into the account of Nompumelelo Ntuli, one of Jacob Zuma’s wives, by Zuma benefactor Mabheleni Ntuli, after he was paid by Carol Bouwer Productions. Photo: Yunus Mohamed/ Foto24/Gallo

The public protector has given everyone who scored from a dodgy R39-million Nelson Mandela memorial service a pass. Instead, Busisiwe Mkhwebane has found that the director general who approved the irregular payments should be held solely accountable.

Of the R39-million awarded to Carol Bouwer Productions for the event, R18-million went to controversial Durban businessperson and former president Jacob Zuma’s benefactor, Mabheleni Ntuli, who then paid some of that money into the bank account of one of Zuma’s wives, Nompumelelo “MaNtuli” Ntuli-Zuma.

Mkhwebane’s slew of bizarre findings has placed her under intense pressure in the past few months.

Her other recent report, which has been criticised for being baseless, found that Minister of Public Enterprises Pravin Gordhan had violated the Constitution when he granted former South African Revenue Service (Sars) deputy commissioner Ivan Pillay early retirement with full benefits in 2010. Gordhan has filed a review application in the Pretoria high court seeking to have the report’s findings set aside.

In 2016 Shaun Abrahams, the former head of the National Prosecuting Authority, had charged Gordhan with the same offence, but this was dropped after it was found that Sars had approved the pension.

Mkhwebane’s report on Carol Bouwer Productions from earlier this month found that the allegations that the Mpumalanga government had, in December 2013, irregularly appointed the television production company as the main contractor to organise Mandela’s memorial services were substantiated.

But Mkhwebane ordered that only Mpumalanga’s former director general, Nonhlanhla Mkhize, who is now KwaZulu-Natal’s director general, must face the music, and that the KZN premier, Sihle Zikalala,take appropriate steps.

Of the R39-million Bouwer unfairly benefited from, R18-million went to Ntuli, who was one of the major donors of the Zuma Education Trust and sponsored parties at Nkandla, all of which earned him the label of Zuma’s benefactor.

This detail was, however, not enough for Mkhwebane to do more than focus on the director general who approved the irregular appointment.

Mkhwebane’s finding also seems to overlook a 2014 treasury report, which came after an investigation into the contract and recommended that the police should investigate the transactions between Bouwer and Ntuli, who was alleged to have been a sub-contractor to Bouwer’s company.

It is unclear whether Mkhwebane considered the treasury’s report before letting Bouwer off the hook.

The treasury money trail shows that Bouwer paid out four tranches of R4.5-million into the bank account of Dartingo Trading 20, a company solely owned by Ntuli, who is known for his taste for luxury cars, jewellery, high-end clothing and his association with Zuma.

Before the payments the account had a balance of less than R5000. Just a few days after receiving the payments from Bouwer, Ntuli spent R5-million on a luxury car dealership in Ballito.

Later R55 000 was paid from the Dartingo Trading 20 account into the bank account of Ntuli-Zuma. Her lawyer previously confirmed that this had been “a gift”.

MaNtuli has been estranged from Zuma since 2015, after claims by state security that she had attempted to poison the former president.

In her report, Mkhwebane did note that: “Ms Bouwer also stated that all invoices were certified before payments were processed and added that this was done by someone from the department of finance in Mpumalanga, who was located at the site. However, the name of the official was not provided. There was also someone tasked with verifying deliveries for catering, whose name was also not provided.”

Despite Bouwer being unable to provide these names and there being no evidence of the recording of the memorial events, Mkhwebane still made no finding against Bouwer.

“The office of the premier, in their letter dated 25 April 2019, stated that the ‘department does not have the recordings of the events’and that ‘no information is available’ on the invitation of the honourable premier by the churches,” Mkhwebane said.

A senior government official, who has an insight into the situation, questioned why Mkhwebane made no findings against Bouwer, even though it was clear that she had unfairly benefited. “Why is there no finding about this matter [no records of the events]? The department may have paid for work not done.”

The official further told the Mail & Guardian that Mkhwebane had ignored several invoices that were submitted by Bouwer to the province without any proof of any subcontractors being hired. “The agreement signed between Carol Bouwer Productions and the accounting officer states the following: ‘All invoices submitted in respect of functions performed shall be accompanied by certified copies of original documentary proof emanating from the entity concerned with whom Carol Bouwer has contracted’, [but] there is no such evidence.”

Bouwer had previously maintained in her defence that Ntuli was her subcontractor and that they had delivered on the events.

Mkhwebane found that Mkhize’s failure to report the deviation in the appointment of Bouwer’s company to treasury and the auditor general rendered its appointment irregular.

“Dr Mkhize only approved the deviation memorandum on 10 December 2013, when Carol Bouwer Productions had already commenced with her work on the Mandela memorial service event on 06 December 2013. This means that compliance with Treasury Regulation 16A 6.4 in appointing Carol Bouwer Productions by the Office of the Premier was also irregular.”

The senior government official told the M&G that in such findings, the government should have been given a chance to recover the monies that were paid out irregularly. Mkhwebane has recently come under fire from several courts that have found her wanting in her job. She faces calls from Parliament to start formal proceedings to remove her for being incompetent.

Various political parties, the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation, Freedom Under Law, the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse, trade union federation Cosatu and the South African Communist Party have all called on Mkhwebane to resign. Mkhwebane’s office had not responded by the time of publishing.


UPDATE

Following the publication of this article, Oupa Segalwe, acting spokesperson for the office of the public, contacted the author via email on June 14 at 2.43pm to respond to questions from the Mail & Guardian. This is the unedited body of the email below:

Dear Mr. Jika,

Thank you for your enquiry. It is a pity that, due to the fact that we were traveling, we could not respond on time so as to help you report accurately.

The investigation was NOT against Carol Bouwer as you suggest in your enquiry. Carol Bouwer Production is a private company and thus falls outside of the jurisdiction of the Public Protector. The investigation was instead against the Mpumalanga Office of the Premier, which is an organ of state and therefore falls within the ambit of the Public Protector.

1.It is true that Ms. Nkambule alleged that Carol Bouwer Production was irregularly appointed to render event management services at the Nelson Mandela Memorial Service , that an irregular payment was made to the company and that the company did not meet the criteria to have been appointed a service provider. The complaint by Ms. Nkambule was based on a City Press article published on 16 March 2014, NOT that of the Sunday Times, which you refer to. It is NOT true, however, that the was not investigated by the Public Protector. In fact, the issues that the Public Protector identified for investigation, investigated and made findings on were:

a)Whether the Office of the Premier irregularly appointed Carol Bouwer Production to render event management services at the Memorial Service; and

b)Whether the Office of the Premier irregularly spent R70million during the Memorial Service and whether funds were shifted from compensation of employees budget to pay for the event.

The Public Protector referenced the Auditor-General’s report on the matter.

2.That the invoices were certified before payments were processed and that this was done by someone at the Department of Finance was an allegation made by Ms. Carol Bouwer during the investigation. However, she could not provide the name of the official in question. Be that as it may, this is covered by the Public Protector’s finding that R70million was irregularly spent on the event. The Public Protector could not determine the total amount paid to Carol Bouwer Production as the records she was furnished with during the investigation were inaccurate. There were no Supply Chain Management committees in place and payments of suppliers were made directly by the bank and not through the normal LOGIS and DAS systems as approved by the then Director-General. As a result, there were no records of expenditure.

3.Additional information was requested from Carol Bouwer Production and it was not forthcoming. However, the Public Protector did come across the audited statements of Carol Bouwer Production. The statements cover the total amount received including the invoice in question but because the Public Protector could not get all the documents she needed, in the rmedial action (paragraphs 7.2.1 and 7.3.2 of the report), the Public Protector directs the Hawks and the current Director-General to investigate further.

4.We have further noted in the story that the angle suggests that the Public Protector sought to one of the former President, Mr. Jacob Zuma’s wife and yet this question was not specifically posed to us for comment. As indicated, the Public Protector investigated only the what was alleged and what fell within her jurisdiction. The allegations were that the Office of the Premier irregularly appointed Carol Bouwer Production, that the Office of the spent R70million of which R39million was paid to Carol Bouwer Production without following proper procurement procedures. What Carol Bouwer Production did with the money paid to it was not part of the scope of the investigation.

Regards,

Oupa Segalwe
Spokesperson (Acting
Public Protector South Africa: Head Office

Thanduxolo Jika

Thanduxolo Jika

Thanduxolo Jika is an investigative Journalist and Co-Author of We are going to kill each other today:The Marikana Story. The Messiah of Abantu. Read more from Thanduxolo Jika

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