An explosive affidavit by chartered accountant and commentator Khaya Sithole accuses the top leadership of the South African Institute of Chartered Accountants (Saica) of lying, not following due process and covering up corruption.
Sithole’s disciplinary hearing at the professional body’s offices in Illovo kicked off on Friday.
He is accused of acting without integrity and against the professional ethics of the accounting industry by irregularly adding 129 students to the Thuthuka Bursary Fund (TBF), Saica’s scholarship scheme between 2014 and 2016, while programme manager at Wits University.
Testifying at the hearing on Friday, TBF’s project director Nthato Selebi said that the students were given a confirmation letter by Sithole using a document with Selebi’s forged signature.
Selebi narrated that this bypassed the strict criteria methods for admission to the scholarship programme and cost Saica more than R10m in 2016 as the extra students were not budgeted for.
Sithole blames high level officials
According to Sithole’s affidavit he claims that the letter confirming the awarding of the bursaries was given to him by Selebi who knew that he was using the template with his signature.
He also accused a number of high level officials, including Adam Habib, Wits vice-chancellor, Terrence Nombembe, Saica CEO and TBF trustee, Sizwe Nxasana, NSFAS chairperson and Thuthuka chair, Chantyl Mulder, Saica executive director and Thuthuka custodian; and Associate Professor Nirupa Padia, head of School of Accountancy at Wits, of ordering him to add students to the bursary scheme without following due process.
Sithole is yet to testify before the panel and is being represented by well-known legal personality Advocate Tembeka Ngcukaitobi.
Also present at the hearing were a crowd of ANC Youth League members and Sithole’s friends who frequently laughed and jeered during proceedings and were asked to keep quiet by the chairperson of the inquiry.
Sithole’s affidavit traces disciplinary action against him to information related to the then Saica CEO and Head of investigations of the state capture commission of inquiry Terence Nombembe receiving a R1.2m donation in March 2017, for the TBF from Gupta-linked Trillian Capital.
According to Sithole, he heard about the issue and advised not to damage the industry by going public, he reached out to Nombembe and others in Saica’s executive leadership to deal with the issue.
Sithole’s affidavit reads that Nombembe believed he had leaked the information to the Economic Freedom Fighter’s (EFF) leader Julius Malema who wanted him removed from the state capture inquiry.
The document further blames Saica chairperson and Deloitte Africa CEO Lwazi Bam for wanting to remove Sithole as a CA (SA) before the institution’s AGM on June 26 as he wrote an open letter calling for the removal of the entire board.
Saica hits back
In a statement on Friday, Bam said the Saica board “distances itself from all the allegations and wishes to reiterate its support for its whole leadership team”.
Saica has been criticised by former finance minister Trevor Manuel and chief executive of Pan-African Investment and Research, Dr Iraj Abedian for its slow reaction to disciplining members of the accounting profession involved in scandals such as KMPG, Steinhoff and Eskom.
In a separate statement, TBF chairperson Sizwe Nxasana said it was of “critical importance” to maintain the integrity and reputation of the bursary fund.
“As CAs, we are placed in an extraordinary position of trust. If members of our profession fail to uphold the highest ethical and professional standards, our economy and the credibility of our public and private sector institutions will be severely compromised.”
“Where chartered accountants transgress, South Africa rightly expects that they be held to account. Thuthuka supports the actions being taken across the profession and indeed across the country to restore integrity and trust as the cornerstone of our institutions and professions,” said Nxasana.
A date for the continuation of the hearing is yet to be announced.
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