FORMER top officials in the Limpopo Education Department are implicated by a forensic report in the “irregular” appointment of a consultant just days after he had resigned from the same department.
But Zwo Nevhutalu, former head of the department, and former chief financial officer (CFO) Ian van der Merwe have denied any wrongdoing.
The Star has seen a report compiled for the department by Neo Africa Solutions.
It reveals that Van der Merwe motivated the appointment of Massoud Shaker as a consultant 17 days after Shaker had resigned as general manager for infrastructure services.
The three-year contract was approved by Nevhutalu in November 2008.
The report states that, as a consultant, Shaker was set to earn R3.3 million over a three-year period. But according to the report, Shaker claimed R2.9m instead of the R1m he was entitled to.
He resigned as consultant in October 2009, nearly a year after being appointed.
The project that he had been contracted for was stopped in December 2009 instead of running until November last year.
All of this happened when Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi was still provincial education MEC.
Van der Merwe is now CFO for the national Health Department, while Shaker is special adviser to Motsoaledi.
Shaker received benefits entitled to public servants even though he was an independent contractor.
“His contract indicates that he will be paid for cellphone usage, that he will have secretarial support from the department and have an office with furniture and computer, a proper vehicle should be made available to him for his travel. Dr Shaker also claimed for overnight stay, travel, overtime and for entertainment,” the report said.
It also raised a concern that there had been no cooling-off period before Shaker’s appointment as consultant.
It recommended that Nevhutalu and Van der Merwe be held accountable for gross negligence.
“On Dr Shaker, we can prove criminal intent to defraud the department. However, our opinion is that the department should proceed with the civil [litigation] route, so we can apply for recovery,” the report suggested.
Joe Maila, the minister’s spokesman, referred queries to the Limpopo Education Department. Shaker delegated Van der Merwe, who justified his appointment, to comment on his behalf.
“This was based on National Treasury practice note SCM3 of 2003. Treasury approval was sought and is on record. Legal opinion was sought and is on record. All concur that due process was followed with respect to the appointment of Dr Shaker,” said Van der Merwe.
He said the province wanted to retain Shaker’s expertise after the Mpumalanga government had tried to recruit him.
“Under his leadership, some 1 890 projects... in excess of R1 billion were professionally managed,” he said.
He said the report was full of inaccuracies and that he was never consulted for a response.
Nevhutalu criticised the report for “lack of integrity, professionalism and truth”.