Johannesburg - THE head of the agency rolling out the country’s R2 billion digital TV migration project landed his top job despite being at the centre of a Hawks probe into several multimillion rand tenders.
The Hawks are still investigating Zami Nkosi, current chief executive of the Universal Access Agency of SA (USAASA), following his stint at the City of Joburg’s waste management service, Pikitup.
At the time that the 11 tenders worth R300 million were awarded, Nkosi was the managing director of the service. Two months before the waste management service instituted a forensic investigation, by Ernst & Young, into the tenders in 2011, Nkosi resigned.
A year later, when the Hawks investigation got under way, Nkosi snapped up the job at USAASA.
Now just 11 months later, his appointment at the Department of Communications’ agency which is responsible for connectivity across the country, is the subject of a Special Investigating Unit probe, promulgated by President Jacob Zuma last month.
The SIU investigation follows a forensic investigation done by auditors Gobodo, which questioned Nkosi’s appointment and his relationship with the board’s chairperson, Phumla Radebe.
Contacted this week, Nkosi said he had been advised by his lawyer not to comment on the investigation or how he landed the job at USAASA.
Board chairwoman Phumla Radebe could not be reached via phone and failed to respond to SMSes.
Agency spokesman Khulekani Ntshangase said the story was part of underhanded tactics that people were using to get their “dirty hands on USAASA money”.
He said the agency was not aware of the investigation by the Hawks and could not comment on the SIU’s investigation. “The current board and management at USAASA have done absolutely nothing wrong. The appointment of the CEO was above board,” said Ntshangase.
But according to the report, seen by The Sunday Independent, Radebe did not recuse herself from the panel that had interviewed Nkosi, even though she worked with Nkosi at Pikitup and she was a reference on his CV. The report recommended that the department decide if it was appropriate for the board to relax the minimum requirements of the job to employ Nkosi.
The Hawks’ probe looks at eleven contracts awarded to eleven companies in the time when Nkosi was at the helm. Hawks spokesman Captain Paul Ramaloko confirmed that the Pikitup investigation was being wound up by the its anti-corruption task team. He would not confirm that Nkosi was being investigated, saying charges had not been levelled against anyone yet.
Ramaloko said the investigation was probing the payment of services not rendered and the overpricing of services. Allegations of maladministration, misuse of funds and corruption were being probed, he added.
The two-year long Hawks investigation follows a forensic audit done by Ernst and Young, recommending that criminal charges be laid against Nkosi.
This week Pikitup spokeswoman Pansy Oyedele said they did not wish to comment.
“Pikitup can confirm that it has taken the necessary and appropriate action against everyone who has been implicated in any of its forensic investigations,” Oyedele said.
But according to the report, the waste management service was obliged to recover the unauthorised or irregular expenditure spent under Nkosi in appointing eight service providers between 2008 and 2010. In an executive summary report of all the forensic reports, it states that Nkosi allegedly contravened sections of the Municipal Finance Management Act. The report accuses him of:
* Allegedly destroying a report intended for the bid adjudication committee during the process of appointing one of the companies and replacing it with another report which included disqualified bidders.
* Failing to comply with requests and instructions issued during bid adjudication committee meetings.
And according to the report, in one of the contracts, Nkosi may also have had a conflict of interest when he appointed Sula Smart as his sister Nompumelelo Mofokeng had a business relationship with Sula Smart that he did not declare.
“Mofokeng is the sole member of Mphephethwa Trading CC, an entity which Mofokeng uses to bill Sula Smart for services” states the report.
“The nature of the relationship impacted directly on the business relationship between Pikitup and Sula Smart as Sula Smart rented his sister’s truck for purposes of carrying out work at Pikitup.
“Mr Nkosi did not declare this apparent conflict to the board and to the BAC.”
The report recommended that further investigation should be conducted into information that Nkosi’s sister was supplying trucks to Fleet Africa during the continuation of the contract between Pikitup and Fleet Africa.
On Saturday Mofokeng refused to comment questioning how the newspaper got her number.
In another project – the construction of new depot in Orange Farm – despite the budget being only R10m Nkosi allegedly approved a tender for R18m.
Nkosi was involved in the procurement process of certain contracts and signed off others, labelling the contracts “procurement emergencies” or “urgent procurement”, the report states.
Investigators stated that their efforts to arrange an interview with Nkosi had been unsuccessful.