Hijacking of Sentech

2010-07-31 09:26

Ntumba Incorporated, the auditors of a company owned by Communications Minister Siphiwe Nyanda, is at the centre of financial mismanagement and irregular ­expenditure allegations at ­Sentech.

Sentech, the loss-making state-owned broadcast signal distributor, falls under Nyanda’s watch.

City Press is in possession of documents that show that auditors Melusi Ntumba and Vhonani Mathebula authorised six payments to the tune of R1.1 million to themselves and a board member who hired them. This took place while suspended chief financial ­officer Mohammed Cassim was still on the parastatal’s payroll.

Ntumba Incorporated audits ­Abalozi, formerly General Nyanda Security Risk Advisory Service.

In a clear breach of the Public ­Finance Management Act and corporate governance rules, Melusi Ntumba and Mathebula authorised payments to Mesuli Dhlamini, a Sentech board member. Dhlamini has been receiving a monthly consulting fee of R150 000 since joining the broadcast signal distributor as a non­executive director in April.

Soon after Dhlamini was ­appointed chairperson of the Sentech board turnaround subcommittee, he appointed Ntumba Incorporated in May to assist the ailing ­parastatal with its turnaround strategy at a cost of R300 000 a month for a three-month stint.

It is not clear how consultants who were employed to provide a turnaround strategy acquired ­executive powers to run Sentech’s finance department.

Sentech spokesperson Nthabeleng Mokitimi said: “The information you have in your possession is select and maliciously meant to discredit the board, and cause ­confusion and disarray in the ­public spectrum.”

Sources told City Press that the consultants were employed by Dhlamini unilaterally and that proper procurement and Public ­Finance Management Act regulations were not followed when ­consultants, including Ntumba ­Incorporated, were appointed.

A source said: “No tender was put out before the consultants were employed. They were appointed by Dhlamini and (board chairperson Quaraysh) Patel unilaterally. For instance, Sentech was supposed to ask for three competing quotes before appointing each consultant, but that did not happen.”

Mokitimi refused to explain why a company owned by Dhlamini was doing consulting work on the ­turnaround strategy to which he, as a non-executive board member, provided ­oversight.

“Please note that Sentech will not discuss board and/or other ­personnel remuneration as there are statutes and procedures that govern these matters,” she said.

According to sources, senior Sentech staff employees were ­dismayed when Dhlamini roped in the auditing firm, which is regarded as a novice in the information and communication technology (ICT) sector, to help draft the company’s three-year business plan.

The source said: “Ntumba Incorporated does not know anything about the ICT ­industry.

“The business plan hasn’t been accepted by the Treasury because it is flawed.

“But the firm has been paid in the blink of an eye when presenting the invoices, while important creditors have not been paid.”

Dhlamini also appointed Jimmy Mumba, a former Sentech ­employee, and Sayinile Ginindza, a former SABC executive, to assist with the turnaround strategy.

Mumba was paid a monthly consulting fee of R120 000 in May, while Ginindza received R56 000 for spending 14 days at Sentech.

Between April 30 and May 26, Ntumba Incorporated approved six invoices despite the presence of Cassim who, according to sources, was allegedly sidelined and stripped of his powers in mid-April by the Sentech board for refusing to authorise the payments.

According to sources, Cassim’s refusal to authorise irregular ­payments made him a marked man, resulting in his suspension by the parastatal’s board for “gross negligence” at the end of June.

Cassim is legally challenging his suspension.

Melusi Ntumba had not returned our calls by the time of going to press.

» This article is the subject of a ruling of the Press Ombudsman.

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