Legislature laptops: accused goes free

2012-02-03 00:00

THE KZN Legislature will have to write off R230 000 of public funds after an IT specialist on the staff was acquitted of charges of buying laptops at inflated prices.

His acquittal came after suppliers had refused to testify at his disciplinary hearing, legislature secretary Nerusha Naidoo told the standing committee of public accounts (Scopa) yesterday.

Naidoo said the employee, Cedric Sithole, faced five charges relating to the 2009 purchase of 10 laptops for the legislature. It was later discovered that the prices had been inflated by up to R230 000. Sithole was acquitted after a lengthy disciplinary hearing, which started in April 2011 and ended five months later.

The acquittal means that the legislature will not be able to recover the R230 000.

Naidoo and KZN Legislature speaker Neliswa Peggy Nkonyeni had assured Scopa that measures had been put in place to ensure that such a setback would not happen again. One such measure is the appointment of an IT manager who reports directly to Naidoo.

The legislature secretary said that there was a recommendation that the supply chain manager, advocate Johan Muthige, also be charged in connection with the case. However, she said, the process was abandoned after he had decided to retire before he was hauled before the disciplinary committee.

This laptop acquisition case was one of the unresolved matters that came up in the Auditor-General’s 2008/09 report. Another was the disciplinary hearing of an employee, Mohammed Ismail, who was charged with losing legislature bid documents.

Naidoo said Ismail was found guilty of negligence in failing to safeguard the bid documents, which were under his direct control.

“In view of the mitigating circumstances and the fact that the legislature shared some responsibility in that it had not allocated a safe for him to store the bid documents, he was given a written warning,” Naidoo said.

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