Public Protector may probe NYDA – minister

2013-08-06 16:37

The public protector may yet launch a formal probe into allegations against some senior officials in the National Youth Development Agency (NYDA), MPs heard.

Briefing members of Parliament’s appropriations standing committee, Deputy Minister in the Presidency Obed Bapela said today Public Protector Thuli Madonsela had been receiving information anonymously, prompting her to investigate.

“The public protector has been sending questions ... on these allegations ... to the NYDA ... There is no formal investigation as yet by the public protector on the NYDA. There is information seeking. That is a procedure before you can formally investigate an institution.”

Bapela said “quite a number of issues” had been sent in by anonymous callers and whistle blowers.

“But for now, there’s no formal investigation... The public protector is still probing the issues and asking questions, and the NYDA is responding in detail [to] those questions.”

Earlier, NYDA board executive chairman Yershen Pillay explained to the committee about the ongoing process involving NYDA CEO Steven Ngubeni, who was suspended last month.

Pillay said the suspension had been based on the contents of a 50-page audit report. The matter was being handled “carefully” to afford Ngubeni an opportunity to address the charges against him.

It would involve an independent process and an independent external presiding officer, “that will hear the charges and will then make a recommendation to the board as to what the decision will be”.

The board would then act on that recommendation.

Bapela, responding to a question on who else in the NYDA was currently being investigated, said the CEO was the only official “formally charged”.

He declined to specify the charges, saying the matter was still being dealt with.

But he revealed there had also been an investigation “by the suspended CEO, before the suspension took place, on investigating the COO [chief operations officer]”.

However, this process had not been formalised.

“It’s up to the board to follow up on this issue... as to what they do... The process is still an intent, the person is not suspended, still in the institution, but with clouds hanging around,” he said.

According to the NYDA website, its COO is Magdalene Moonsamy.

Pillay, responding to a question on allegations made against himself – and reported in the media – said this was to be expected.

“When you embark on a clean-up process, and you act on a report that indicates maladministration to the value of R35 million, you... can’t expect those people implicated are going to keep quiet. They are going to raise issues in the public domain, and we expected that.”

He referred to the allegations as “baseless, ill-informed character assassinations and threats”.

Pillay assured the committee his new board would “act on any form of fraud corruption, or maladministration” it uncovered.

He also raised the question of why the allegations made against him had arisen now, since Ngubeni’s suspension, and not earlier.

“If there are allegations against me and I am found guilty, I will face the necessary punishment. That’s how we should approach things,” he said.

Bapela, referring to the process involving Ngubeni, said the NYDA – which reports to the presidency – would “make sure this is dealt with speedily”.

He declined to put a date or timeframe on this.

Pillay, turning to his board’s decision to postpone its next youth awards ceremony, described it as “one of the best” the NYDA had made.

It had decided the R10 million required to host the SA Youth Awards was better spent on youth development programmes.

The awards would still be held, but only when the necessary funds were raised.

“In the meantime, it’s better to spend that money on tangible youth development programmes,” Pillay said.

In a statement later today, Democratic Alliance MP Tim Harris said he intended to ask Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan to re-assign the NYDA’s functions to mainstream government departments.

“This morning’s committee [meeting] confirmed that the agency is not performing in terms of their own annual performance plan, and that South Africans are not getting any value for their investment. It is time to pull the plug on the NYDA,” he said.

Taxpayers would contribute R392 million to the agency this year.

“The picture painted... was of an organisation in disarray. The leadership appears to be crippled by infighting linked to maladministration, financial misconduct, and alleged corruption, and the performance of the agency is suffering as a result,” he said.

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