Mega stays mum on suspensions

2009-06-08 19:00

Nelspruit - Mpumalanga's Economic Growth Agency (Mega) has refused to explain its suspension of four officials on corruption and fraud-related charges.

The agency has stopped officials from speaking on the matter, and appointed a Gauteng public relations group to craft a statement that side-stepped detailed media questions.

The statement, issued on Friday last week in the name of Mega spokesperson Samantha Beresford, does not confirm the charges, when the officials will appear before disciplinary hearings, or whether any others are implicated.

It does, however, stress that Mega has adopted a “zero tolerance to crime”.

“As with all complex businesses, Mega is faced with challenges and we will deal with them in a professional manner, allowing the law to take its natural course where necessary,” the statement reads.

Disciplinary hearings

Beresford confirmed that Mega will begin disciplinary hearings following “extensive investigations” into the officials.

Provincial DA leader Anthony Benadie called on the provincial government to review Mega's structure as it had been "marred with corruption allegations for years".

He highlighted the "very public" firing of Mega board chairperson Phillip Dexter by former economic development and planning MEC Craig Padayachee.

“No other disciplinary procedures for other Mega staff or board members have been dealt with so publicly. (Padayachee's) action corroborates the DA’s belief that Dexter's axing from Mega was for political reasons and not for financial maladministration as chairman of the board,” said Benadie, on Friday.

Staff replacements

“Perhaps it is time for the board to be dismantled and all the staff replaced. The current staff should be reduced by two-thirds and the positions filled by competent, honest people who are determined to thwart poverty in this province,” said Benadie.

He said since Dexter’s “abrupt departure” things have gone from bad to worse at Mega, which prompted the Auditor General (AG) to find reasons to give Mega a financial qualification relating to land and building investments, and non-compliance with Value Added Tax and the National Credit Act.

He said there were also inconsistencies in the report Mega prepared for the AG.

“An urgent independent investigation into the goings-on at Mega needs to be done. The DA will not accept a government investigation, because the government will cover up any wrongdoings that are revealed,” said Benadie.