Telecoms dept ignored warnings, now investigates CFO for collusion

2015-03-22 17:00

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The man entrusted with handling the finances of the department of telecommunications and postal services was once declared unable to handle his personal finances.

The department ignored a warning from the State Security Agency (SSA) that hiring Sam Vilakazi could pose a security risk, but now the department itself is investigating him for collusion in a multimillion-rand communications tender.

The Special Investigating Unit (SIU) is also investigating Vilakazi’s role in the alleged collusion.

The revelation about his finances, contained in an SSA letter obtained by City Press, comes as the probe into the multimillion-rand tender gains momentum.

The agency’s domestic branch warned as early as 2012 that appointing Vilakazi, now the department’s acting chief financial officer, “could pose a security risk”.

At the time, Vilakazi owed WesBank motor finance R108?643 and had an adverse listing. He has now remedied his finances with the company.

At the time, Vilakazi had applied for a deputy director-general post in the former department of communications, which was renamed the department of telecommunications and postal services early last year.

Vilakazi, who was one of three candidates vying for the top post, was the only one who had an adverse listing. The director of the domestic branch of the SSA, Nozuko Bam, said: “It should be noted that the inability of a person to manage his or her finances could pose a security risk.”

Vilakazi chaired the tender committee that is accused of colluding with owners of marketing company Media Corner in the awarding of the R756?million communications tender.

Media Corner is owned by Nhlanhla and Denise Dakile, a high-powered couple who own R35?million worth of luxury properties in Joburg and Cape Town, and love fast cars and good wine.

Big Deals: Nhlanhla and Denise Dakile at a wine auction in Cape Town
Picture: thecapewineauction.com

Vilakazi and 15 other employees have been charged and face disciplinary measures for their role in the awarding of the tender.

Some employees who spoke on condition of anonymity this week told City Press Vilakazi was being protected at the expense of junior employees.

“Everyone who was on the committee now faces charges for doing their job. Vilakazi is being protected by the director-general [Rosey Sekese]. They are now trying to put the blame on junior officials, while Vilakazi and [Sekese] were part of the process and authorised payments,” said one employee.

The SIU wants the contract to be cancelled because of the alleged collusion.

City Press reported last year that, in papers filed with the North Gauteng High Court, Media Corner was accused of regularly depositing cash into Vilakazi’s personal assistant’s bank account.

The communications company was contracted in 2012 by the then department of communications to publicise South Africa’s planned switch from analogue to digital television.

Former department spokesperson Wisani Ngobeni claimed in his labour court challenge that Vilakazi personally authorised payments to Media Corner without any evidence of the company doing any work for the department.

According to a statement by the SIU and Sekese, it is alleged Vilakazi and the department’s director of purchasing, Lindiwe Nkwe, artificially lowered Media Corner’s bid so that the company would win the tender.

Vilakazi remains in his position, while Nkwe resigned to join another government entity.

Although the SIU is yet to complete its investigation, Sekese wrote to 15 employees implicated in the scandal in November, saying the department was considering placing them on “precautionary suspension with full benefits”.

The SIU claims in its papers that Vilakazi approved at least R45?million in payments to Media Corner for advertising – but could not provide evidence that justified the payment.

Telecommunications and postal services spokesperson Siyabulela Qoza said that, according to information from the department, they did not have such a negative record.

“The employment of people in the department is an internal matter. We won’t engage publicly on such matters without knowing the veracity of the documents that allegedly contain confidential information,” he said.

Qoza said it was common practice in the public service that a person occupying a senior rank in a branch assumed acting responsibilities in instances where there were vacancies.

“The department’s chief financial officer function is at chief director level, and he reports to the deputy director-general for administration. Sam Vilakazi is duly acting in this role since the resignation of the chief financial officer in March 2014,” he said.

Vilakazi referred enquiries to his lawyer, Lindelani Sikhitha, who said his client’s appointment was above board and all due processes were followed.

“The issue of the WesBank debt was cleared and therefore had no negative impact on his appointment to the position,” he said.

Sikhitha said his client would not comment on the collusion allegations, because the SIU was still investigating.

“There are disciplinary processes under way on this matter, and Dr Vilakazi is one of those against whom disciplinary processes have been instituted by the department. Therefore, Dr Vilakazi is unable to comment any further regarding this issue at this stage,” he said.

All attempts to reach Media Corner for comment proved unsuccessful.

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