Ex-staff sued by CEF over R1bn graft

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Independent Newspapers

PetroSA oil rig.

The Central Energy Fund (CEF) has lodged a civil claim in the South Gauteng High Court against former senior officials who were implicated in the scandal over irregular expenditure of R1 billion and other alleged impropriety at state-owned PetroSA earlier this year.

PetroSA has also prepared a comprehensive dossier and submitted this to the SAPS anti-corruption task team for further action. Captain Paul Ramaloko, the spokesman for the Hawks, was not immediately available for comment.

Mandla Tyala, the spokesman for the CEF, which manages the oil and gas operations belonging to the state, could not confirm the sum that was being sought through the court, saying: “It’s various amounts sitting in several accounts.”

Sankie Mthembi Mahanyele, the chairwoman of the CEF Group, said yesterday: “We indicated at the time of handing over the report into the investigation to the minister of energy that we would not hesitate to take corrective action against officials and other parties who are implicated in irregular transactions.

“We are now at the implementation phase of the recommendations that flow from the overall investigatory process, which involved input and advice from both internal role players and external experts.”

The action follows investigations that were conducted into all contracts worth more than R5 million in all CEF Group companies, including PetroSA. Former minister of energy Dipuo Peters requested an investigation into the companies under the CEF Group umbrella in September last year.

The full report was completed and submitted to the Energy Department in April.

Lance Greyling, the DA spokesman on energy, said: “The DA certainly welcomes the strongest possible action being taken against all those who were involved in corruption or maladministration, and we hope that the final report will be tabled in Parliament for the energy committee to consider in early January when we sit again.”

He said the event emphasised the need for greater transparency from PetroSA and parliamentary accountability for its actions, particularly for its offshore dealings.

In May Everton September, a vice-president for PetroSA’s oil and gas venture, was suspended pending further investigation into his role in irregular spending during the acquisition by PetroSA of a company with oil interests off the coast of Ghana.

September and former acting chief executive of PetroSA Yekani Tenza allegedly negotiated the deal, which resulted in about R162m additional expenditure being racked up.

After the transaction was finalised George Sabelo, a lawyer with Nkosi Sabelo Incorporated, was paid a “success fee” of R11.4m and a large portion was transferred to an unidentified third party.

This raised suspicions.

In a separate deal, PetroSA allegedly paid consultants an exorbitant fee for advice during negotiations to buy Engen petrol stations across the country, according to a Mail & Guardian exposé in April.

Tenza allegedly fired the original adviser, HSBC, resulting in a R19m cancellation fee, which auditors considered fruitless and wasteful, and replaced it with investment adviser Harith General Partners, allegedly without a tender.

Harith was due to earn about R371m, which was 10 times more than what HSBC would have been paid. Harith’s pay was revised down to R187m when Tenza left PetroSA in May last year.

In May PetroSA terminated the relationships with Harith and Sabelo while it battled with the scandal.

The CEF said it had reported Nkosi Sabelo Incorporated to the Law Society of the Northern Provinces and a letter of demand was being finalised to recover funds. A letter of demand had been served and particulars of claim had been finalised against Harith.

Benny Mokaba, the former chairman of PetroSA, left the company in April. Mokaba was appointed an executive director of Sasol’s energy businesses in South Africa in 2006.

He resigned in 2009. He was a former acting director-general in the then Department of Welfare and has held senior positions at Shell South Africa, the Development Bank of Southern Africa and Siemens Southern Africa.

PetroSA has previously lost nearly R2bn in bad oil and gas investments in Equatorial Guinea and Egypt.

In 2005, PetroSA was involved in what was dubbed the Oilgate scandal when part of a R15m advance it had paid to oil company Imvume to procure oil condensate from Glencore was diverted to the ANC.

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