Sapo probes boss for R1.1m

2011-08-27 15:37

The South African Post Office (Sapo) has spent R1.1 million in six months investigating and disciplining its chief operating officer, John Wentzel, according to accounting records in City Press’s possession.

Wentzel is being investigated over his potential involvement in the messy R425 million lease agreement exposed by City Press six weeks ago.

The R1.1 million amount is more than his combined salary over six months of R1.05 million. Sapo’s 2009/10 ­financial report shows that the ­parastatal pays Wentzel, who also acts as the managing director of Postbank, a yearly gross salary of R2.1 million.

His gross pay excludes allowances and bonuses. Simply put, Sapo has been spending R183 000 a month on an employee who earns R175 000 a month.

Dated between January and June, the accounting documents in City Press’s possession show that Wentzel’s office channelled R750 000, the bulk of the R1.1 million, towards ­investigating him. Of the amount, R292 000 was used to pay for two disciplinary hearings on January 31 and March 31.

Contacted for comment, forensic investigator Frik van Eeden explained that it could have been within reason to spend R183 000 a month considering the lease amount (R425 million) involved.

“The forensic field is very expensive as it sometimes takes time to get all the information to present in a disciplinary case,” said Van Eeden.

“It could happen that the case has been complex to investigate. But it would not be acceptable if the Post Office could spend that amount of money to investigate and discipline an individual for five years.”

The revelations surfaced following a media briefing ­last week convened by Sapo, as a public entity, to discuss a statement containing a portion of the findings emanating from an ­investigation into the lease agreement. The statement also shows a fruitless and wasteful ­expenditure of R19 million.

At the briefing, Sapo chairperson Vuyo Mahlati disclosed that the group’s chief executive, Motshoanetsi Lefoka, was also undergoing a ­disciplinary process for her alleged involvement in the lease agreement.

City Press can also reveal that the group’s executive of strategy, Marietjie Lancaster, is the third executive facing a disciplinary hearing.

Lancaster said: “I can’t comment now because there’s a disciplinary process happening and the outcome will be known next Wednesday. I will release a statement after the judgment has been delivered.”

Sapo is expected to release the findings of a disciplinary process for the named top executives on Wednesday.

The lease deal involved moving the parastatal’s head office from the ­Pretoria CBD to Centurion.

The contract was awarded to commercial and residential property developing firm M&T. According to the findings, the contract breached the Public Finance Management Act ­because it was never advertised and there was no competitive bidding.

Sapo, it was found, was introduced to M&T by “a middleman”. Mahlati this week remained tight-lipped on the identity of the middleman.

Sikhumbuzo Kholwane, chairperson of the portfolio committee on communications, commended ­Sapo’s board for carrying out the investigation. “Many boards could have opted to sweep this under the carpet, but the (Sapo) board is showing that it is investigating these allegations.”

Tutu Mokoena, labour lawyer and representative of the SA Postal Workers’ Union, asked: “Why are these senior executives . . . not suspended when cashiers who are suspected of stealing R300 are put on suspension?”

Shu’ayb Patel, Sapo spokesperson and board member, said the circumstances of each staff member are considered before a decision is taken on whether to suspend or not. “In the case of the executives, not one has been found to be involved in any criminal activity.” 

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