AU’s peer review hit with corruption allegations

2014-04-27 15:00

Allegations of financial mismanagement, nepotism and corruption have been levelled against the African Peer Review Mechanism, a custodian of clean governance in member countries across Africa.

The African Union (AU)-backed ­organisation’s latest published annual report shows it received more than $26?million (R275?million at current ­exchange rate) from member states in the eight years to 2011.

South Africa contributed the highest at $8?million.

It also amassed $15?million from partners such as the Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA), the UK and ­Canadian governments, and the WK ­Kellogg Foundation during that period.

But in an article for online magazine Think Press Africa earlier this month, Burkina Faso journalist Ramata Sore ­revealed that finances at the mechanism’s secretariat were in a shambles.

Audit firm Deloitte uncovered corporate governance weaknesses – including secretariat boss Assefa Shifa authorising his own travel allowances and the lack of an internal audit function – and unauthorised salary advances paid to staff members in a 2012 interim forensic ­review report. It is unclear if the report was finalised.

There were other allegations of financial mismanagement and irregularities surrounding Shifa’s appointment.

Shifa declined to meet with City Press this week and a spokesperson said all queries will be handled by the mechanism’s panel of eminent persons, which oversees the peer review process.

“A decision has been taken that the panel chairperson [Rwanda’s Fatuma Nyirakobwa Ndangiza] handles the ­media on the matter,” said communications boss Liziwe Selana. “We have a panel meeting from May 7 to May 8 2014 in Sandton.”

Besides its contributions to the mechanism directly and through the DBSA, wholly owned by Pretoria, South Africa has allegedly been suckered into ­double-paying for an event that took place two years ago, according to the Think Press investigation.

In April 2012, the department of ­public service and administration – then led by now deceased minister Roy Padayachie – hosted a two-day summit at ­Durban’s Coastlands Hotel and Convention Centre.

A source within the mechanism told Think Press that the South African government picked up the R3.8?million price tag for the event.

This included accommodation and transport for delegates, conference ­facilitators, and food and beverages.

Behind the scenes, the mechanism’s secretariat claimed the same amount from the DBSA, which manages its bank account.

City Press has seen the invoice for the event, as well as a letter to the DBSA from Shifa approving the request to pay service provider Reneésance for the event.

Reneésance boss Renée Burton ­confirmed the invoice was authentic, and said she was paid directly by the ­secretariat.

So what happened to the R3.8?million that was reportedly paid by the ­department of public service and ­administration?

Departmental spokesperson Lebohang Mafokosi denied it had paid this amount, saying all costs were covered by Shifa’s unit.

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