MEC splurges a cool R15m on probes to axe employee

2010-11-28 14:13

An MEC admitted this week that she had spent R15 million of taxpayers’ money on two investigations into alleged misconduct by one government employee.

Limpopo health and social development MEC Miriam Segabutla said she hired Tsepo Technology and Trispen Solutions to probe former departmental spokesperson, Phuti Seloba. The companies were paid R8.8 million and R7.5 million, respectively.

Their reports were used to fire him this week on several counts of alleged procurement negligence, wasteful expenditure and dereliction of duty, among others, relating to a R74?million contract for the supply of light switches for hospitals in Limpopo. However, the probes did not find that he benefited from the contracts.

In addition, the tenders for the probes were never advertised and were given to two companies owned by Segabutla’s associates.

Segabutla admitted at a press conference this week that Tsepo Technology’s director, Johnny Lucas, regularly delivered parcels to her daughter who was at a boarding school in Pretoria and would sign the visitors’ register as an “uncle”.

The Trispen Solutions boss, Gert van der Merwe, was her personal lawyer and was handling her acrimonious divorce.

In addition, both companies were contracted on January 22 to conduct a forensic probe on Seloba, more than a month after he was served with the charges on December 15.

Segabutla stressed that the extent she had gone to pursue Seloba “should demonstrate our commitment to government’s call to fight crime and corruption, and root out corrupt elements from the system”.

However, four other senior officials who also signed off on the tender – including former department head Jabu Dlamini and chief financial officer Friday Mushwana – were not charged.

City Press reported in May last year that Segabutla had removed Seloba from his position as a spin doctor days after taking over because of his association with former premier and now Congress of the People Limpopo chairperson Sello Moloto.

Segabutla said it was immaterial whether or not Seloba benefited financially from the tenders, insisting that he had to be held accountable for allegedly wasting R74?million of taxpayers’ money.

She said Seloba “ill-advised” the department about possible savings from the purchase of Cisco switches, and the government had had to pay higher-than-expected prices.

Seloba said he was a victim of politics and a personal vendetta. “I am taking it on appeal because I believe this was more of a stage management of well-cooked charges. I believe an independent body will find differently,” said Seloba.

Segabutla referred all enquiries about the failure to advertise the tenders to Mushwana, who claimed the department needed the services urgently and could not find any suitable provider in its database.

National Treasury regulations are clear that tenders worth R1?million and above should be subjected to competitive bids and that rules “shall be strictly followed”.

Segabutla insisted it was “grossly unfair” to conclude that the firms were chosen because of their association with her. “As MEC, I have no business in the procurement process,” she said.

She said her association with the two companies started long after they began doing business with the department.

She merely sent parcels to her daughter through Lucas because he stayed in Pretoria, frequented Polokwane and she was “comfortable” with him.

“And yes, he appears on the list as an uncle. In our culture, anyone who is elderly is an uncle or aunt. It is a fact.”

Segabutla said she appointed Van der Merwe to handle her divorce case in March, two months after he won the tender, because “I have a right like you to get the best lawyer”.

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