Madonsela calls on Pule to repay, apologise and quit

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BR Dina Pule 1578

Independent Newspapers

Former communications minister Dina Pule. Photo: Simphiwe Mbokazi

Johannesburg - It will be Communications Minister Yunus Carrim’s responsibility to monitor state funds that were unlawfully spent on the lover of his disgraced predecessor Dina Pule, and that must be urgently calculated and reclaimed.

This was one of several recommendations made yesterday by Thuli Madonsela, the public protector, when she published the findings of her investigation into Pule’s conduct while serving as minister of communications, until she was deposed in July.

By January 31 next year Pule had to make good on her June 28 promise to quantify the amount spent by the department on Phosane Mngqibisa’s overseas trips when he accompanied her to Mexico in September 2009, and all other destinations. Mngqibisa refunded the department R89 326.35, which was spent on the Mexico trip.

Departmental spokesman Siya Qoza said the department had not yet received the public protector’s report on Pule and the ICT Indaba. “As soon as we receive it, we’ll seek legal guidance on how to take forward the recommendations.”

Marian Shinn, the DA MP who asked Madonsela to investigate, called for decisive action to remove Pule from any public office. She added that Carrim should drive the law enforcement agencies to urgently investigate his predecessor’s unlawful activities and the findings by parliament’s ethics committee.

Madonsela investigated allegations of maladministration, corruption and a potential conflict of interest regarding the appointment of service providers for the event management of the ICT Indaba, which the Department of Communications staged at the Cape Town International Convention Centre from June 4 to 7 last year.

The event attracted ministers and other delegates from across the globe and was billed as a forum to discuss how South Africa could bridge the digital divide and unlock opportunities using information and communications technology. More than R30 million in sponsorships were received from major telecoms companies, including Vodacom and MTN.

The department paid a R10m sponsorship, which Madonsela found was improperly paid to Carol Bouwer Productions, which managed the event. The donation was never solicited by Bouwer and the payment process was not executed in line with Treasury regulation 21, which regulates the granting of gifts, donations and sponsorships by the state. Bouwer had innocently accepted the donation and integrated the money into the ICT Indaba budget.

The department and Pule’s conduct was unlawful, improper and constituted maladministration, Madonsela found.

She also found Bouwer was not officially appointed by the department to co-ordinate the indaba, which was Bouwer’s idea. She did not find impropriety in Bouwer’s co-ordinating of the event.

Pule brought Mngqibisa and his company to the ICT Indaba without Bouwer’s request and had “elbowed out” her already appointed execution partner, Hunta Live, to appoint Mngqibisa’s company Khemano, which subsequently took over the co-ordination of the indaba.

Madonsela found that Mngqibisa had benefited improperly through the department and had also diverted R15m in sponsorship that MTN paid into the account for ABR Consulting. He ultimately “siphoned off” R6m to Khemano as a management fee but without Bouwer’s authorisation.

Madonsela also found that Pule acted in breach of the executive ethics code in her unlawful extension of spousal benefits to Mngqibisa. She had also allowed her staff to violate the law and policies to include Mngqibisa in the ICT Indaba and to grant him spousal favours even though Pule admitted he was her lover, yet he was a married man.

Madonsela recommended that Pule resign from Parliament and that she apologise to Bouwer for subjecting her to a hidden agenda; to the Sunday Times for insulting the newspaper for publishing truths; and to Parliament. - Business Report

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