TradePort head’s credential crash

The chief executive of KwaZulu-Natal’s Dube Tradeport has been suspended because she allegedly faked her educational qualifications to land her R2.5 million-a-year job in 2013.

Three sources within the TradePort and KwaZulu-Natal government with intimate knowledge of the situation told City Press Saxen van Coller’s suspension last week followed an investigation by the board.

This allegedly found anomalies in her claims that she held a BA, an MBA and a doctorate. One of these, the sources said, was allegedly found to have been obtained from a university that had closed down before the date on which she claimed to have qualified.

Van Coller (50) is expected to appear before a disciplinary hearing this week. City Press tried repeatedly to contact her, but was unsuccessful.

The board issued a statement in which it said the suspension followed an “organisational risk-assessment” exercise.

Dube TradePort board chairperson Bridgette Gasa would neither confirm nor deny allegations that Van Coller had falsified her qualifications.

“You’d appreciate the stance the board has taken of not responding to any of the allegations [or] speculations made by the various sources you cite,” Gasa told City Press.

“The board deems the suspension an internal matter, which will be dealt with through a disciplinary inquiry set for next week, and which will be chaired by an independent, external chair.”

A senior provincial government official, who has seen the report prepared by investigators, said it alleged that Van Coller also held “two passports with different names”.

“She needed to explain this and tell us whether the firm hired to investigate was wrong. But she did not give good enough responses when asked about it by the board,” said the official.

A Dube TradePort executive told City Press that staff wanted the issue resolved quickly, because many believed she’d been doing a “great job” since she took over in 2013.

Her appointment came after her predecessor, Rohan Persad, resigned because he’d been accused of receiving kickbacks from a now defunct company that operated the cargo terminal at Dube TradePort’s King Shaka International Airport. He was on suspension and under investigation when he quit.

The Tradeport is KwaZulu-Natal’s biggest infrastructure-investment project under the auspices of the provincial department of economic development and tourism.

Bheko Madlala, the department’s spokesperson, said the appointment of the CEO was the responsibility of the board and MEC Mike Mabuyakhulu provided “political oversight”.

“We cannot comment on any of the developments at Dube TradePort because we’re still waiting for a thorough briefing from the board,” said Madlala.

Forensic investigator Paul O’Sullivan, who was hired by Van Coller to investigate various allegations of impropriety at the TradePort, was shocked by news of her suspension.

O’Sullivan maintained that Van Coller had been “determined” to root out irregularities when she was appointed.

“She had a monumental task. She was surrounded by dishonest people and what she’s tried to do is clean the place up. I have no knowledge of what qualifications she’s claimed she has. I am not in a position to comment on that,” added O’Sullivan.

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