KwaZulu-Natal Premier Sihle Zikalala on Tuesday suspended the province’s Public Works head, Gaster Sharpley, following allegations that he had been running the department mafia-style.
Sharpley, who hails from the Eastern Cape, had amongst other things, been accused of using his influential position to ensure that his connections from that province were employed in key positions within the department.
The embattled provincial Public Works head had allegedly given a R2 million-a-year contract to Quinton Williams Consultancy Pty (Ltd), a company owned by his homeboy, Quinton Williams. It later transpired that Sharpley had, prior to the awarding of the contract, had close personal ties with Williams.
According to documents seen by The Witness, Williams had assisted Sharpley with his PhD studies.
Despite Treasury regulations requiring Sharpley to appoint a task team of experts, particularly in the property sector, to assist him to run the department, Sharpley only appointed Williams for the role.
As an independent contractor Williams was supposed to work from his own offices but sources within the department claimed that his closeness to Sharpley saw the former utilising the provincial Public Works offices for free.
“He made sure that whatever Williams needed was provided by the department. He basically ran the department as if it were his own private company.”
A former Buffalo City municipal manager, Sharpley also had a stint as the Eastern Cape provincial Public Works Department head.
Appointed as head of the KZN department during former Premier Willies Mchunu’s tenure, Sharpley allegedly went on to use his influence to ensure that only contractors linked to his allies were allocated lucrative tenders at the time. The latest scandal around Sharpley revolved around allegations that he put together a controversial bursary scheme to benefit himself and other senior managers at the department.
The bursary scheme, which saw the department setting aside about R2,5 million for Sharpley and his senior management team to pursue further studies, saw the department’s top brass enrolling for courses with a close to R300 000 price tag each.
Further, the senior managers were given R50 000 allowances each to cover the costs of travelling to the venues where classes at their chosen academic institutions were being held.
“What we found strange was the fact that these senior managers were already earning huge salaries. It would have made sense if the bursaries were given to junior employees who desperately needed the courses but can’t afford to pay for them,” another source within the department said.
Zikalala’s spokesperson Lennox Mabaso confirmed that Sharpley has been placed on suspension.
“The premier of KwaZulu Natal, Sihle Zikalala, has confirmed the suspension of the public works head of department, Dr Gaster Sharpley today.
“Dr Sharpley’s suspension is necessitated by the need to conduct investigations into a number of areas related to various governance and administrative matters in the department. Dr Sharpley will remain on suspension until the relevant processes are concluded.”
Phiweyo Duma, the deputy director-general for corporate services, had been appointed the department’s acting head, Mabaso said.