Parks board CEO defends 'irregular' spending

2017-07-30 05:54

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The chief executive officer of the North West Parks Board has been accused of irregularly promoting his former girlfriend, spending almost R1m on the production of a 10-minute YouTube promotional video and defying the State Security Agency’s warning against appointing a foreign national to a key post.

The allegations, raised by staff members, are contained in a leaked dossier detailing problems in the management of the province’s wildlife and nature reserves.

The document reveals that parks board CEO Mothobi Mothobi’s ex-girlfriend, Palesa Bodutu, who was previously a research officer reporting directly to him, was recently appointed general manager for ecotourism.

In his defence, Mothobi said that, if he had not appointed Bodutu, he would have been accused of stifling her progress because he was bitter that their relationship had ended.

He added that Bodutu was “highly qualified and had met requirements”.

The document said he also demanded that R488 000 be paid to Mokgothu Communications for securing the appearance of four celebrities in a 10-minute YouTube video that cost about R760 000.

Mothobi said the money paid for the celebrities’ appearance was worth it.

“The use of celebrities as endorsements has generated positive income for the board,” he said, but did not elaborate.

The document alleged that he also promoted his close associate, Edward Sekgarametso, to contracts manager without his having interviewed for the position, and that he appointed Sekgarametso’s sister-in-law – alleged to be a citizen of Botswana – to a senior position despite the State Security Agency advising that she could only be employed if no South African qualified for the position.

The dossier further revealed that Mothobi had motivated for Africa Travel Channel to be paid more for advertising, including just over R306 000 for three more promotional videos.

Mothobi insisted that no other company could produce videos of the same quality.

However the parks board’s former finance head, Gys van der Merwe, refused to make the payments, describing them as “irregular expenditure” because the “supply chain process had not been followed”.

Mothobi eventually overruled Van der Merwe by instructing another employee to process the payments.

Van der Merwe also labelled as irregular the appointment of law firms (at R1m) for internal disciplinary cases.

Mothobi argued that the decision to outsource had been made because of a lack of capacity within the board’s legal division and that the law firms were “selected from a panel of short-listed service providers”.

However, City Press has seen internal notices of the appointments of at least four law firms that state that they were appointed at the recommendation of the CEO.

Mothobi accused Van der Merwe of having no problem paying white service providers whose “contracts started in the early 2000s and had no end date”.

“Van der Merwe paid more than R16m to a white-owned game counting company over six years, despite preferential procurement legislation.

"He further failed to bill concessionary amounts due to the board and insisted on writing off amounts owed to the state,” Mothobi said.

Van der Merwe said he was not authorised to sign contracts above R500 000 – “that is done by the CEO”.

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