Manager probed over ‘bonus’ while home’s power is cut for non-payment

Elderly residents were left without electricity after their retirement home didn’t pay the bills. Picture: iStock/Gallo images
Elderly residents were left without electricity after their retirement home didn’t pay the bills. Picture: iStock/Gallo images

The manager of a cash-strapped old age home in Gauteng, whose elderly and frail residents lived in the dark without electricity for two weeks, is facing a probe for allegedly paying himself a hefty bonus.

Sechaba Mathenjwa allegedly paid himself a R10 000 bonus in December 2016, claiming that he had “worked hard on reducing the Eskom bill and municipality rates” for the home.

This forms part of an investigation planned by social development authorities after City Press reported over the weekend that more than 100 residents at the Vosloorus Society for the Care of the Aged were unable to use showers, listen to or watch the news, and enjoy their favourite TV shows and soapies after Eskom cut off their power last month due to more than R1.2 million owed by the home.

Read: Lives at risk as old age home goes without electricity

Ailing residents, who have different ailments, including dementia, were forced to light candles at night, which posed a risk to their lives.

Eskom confirmed last week that R21 000 was paid by the home, and certain conditions of reconnection were agreed to.

“The outstanding amount will go into a payment arrangement that has been signed by the home’s centre manager,” Eskom said in an email to City Press last Thursday.

Gauteng social development spokesperson Mbangwa Xaba said on Tuesday that the department’s regional office would look into investigating Mathenjwa.

The department instituted an inquiry into the home in April, after allegations were made by a whistleblower to the office of MEC Nandi Mayathula-Khoza on January 12.

“It was alleged that the centre manager had awarded himself a R10 000 bonus. The centre manager had reported that he had worked hard on reducing the Eskom bill and municipality rates. However, given the current account at Eskom being at R1.8 million, this proves inconsistency. Hence the need for an investigation by the department’s regional finance unit,” Xaba said.

When approached for a comment, Mathenjwa said it never happened.

He said he was waiting for the investigation, and added that the home’s books were audited by two institutions. Also, he said, the department of social development had its own auditors.

The department questioned whether the home would be able to afford to pay R21 000 a month to Eskom.

“The department gives the organisation a percentage of funding to assist toward paying electricity and other services such as water, telephone and stationery as stipulated in the costing framework shared with the organisation when they signed the service level agreement. The amount is around R5000 a quarter,” Xaba said.

The officials called an urgent meeting with the home’s operations management and board on September 14, the day the power was cut, to discuss a strategy on the interim measures for the care of the residents.

On October 3 Eskom restored the electricity following a R21 000 payment by the organisation.

“The organisation will still be required to pay this amount monthly toward the debt and service the prepaid electricity. This raises concerns about where the organisation will get the money to service the debt and afford prepaid electricity,” Xaba said.

Mathenjwa said a report would be presented at a press conference next week.

Xaba said the department would not bail out the organisation to avoid setting a precedence.

He said it had become “extremely difficult” for the department to investigate other allegations that were made by the whistleblower in January due to “staff interference with the board and instability of board membership” at the home.

Some of the cases end up pending due to changes in governance and staff members’ interference, Xaba said.

Allegations that have been investigated and resolved include:

* That of a driver, who allegedly was said to have stolen pharmacy vouchers. It was found that the driver was not guilty because the vouchers from the pharmacy were not spent and the pharmacies were willing to show records that they were never used. However, the driver was sent for a disciplinary hearing and found not guilty;

* That of two former staff members, who had to go on retirement as they were beyond retirement age. They decided to take the matter to the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) indicating that they were unfairly sent on retirement. The organisation won the case at the CCMA; and

* That of a driver and Mathenjwa, who allegedly used the organisation’s vehicle for private use. The three staff members who were responsible for investigation “could not find evidence and some of the people interviewed refused to talk”. Xaba said a new logbook system was introduced to trace all the trips.

Xaba said the department began a process to tighten compliance measures with funding at the beginning of this financial year.

This included monitoring the funded not-for-profit organisations’ compliance to legislation, policy, and norms and standards to ensure beneficiaries receive quality services.

The home, a not-for-profit organisation, signed a service level agreement with the department and was allocated just over R3.2 million to deal with its needs this financial year.

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