Johannesburg - Pikitup managing director Amanda Nair has been placed on suspension and is facing five charges relating to a R263 million tender.
This follows months of controversy surrounding allegations of irregularities in the awarding of the tender.
The Star has seen the letter placing her on suspension for two months – at full pay – while the five charges would be the subject of a disciplinary hearing instituted by the Pikitup board.
The tender was awarded to Aqua Transport Plant Hire, which was implicated in fraud in a forensic investigation.
Nair has been requested to furnish reasons why she should not be suspended. She has been given the option of suggesting two attorneys to hear the matter.
The Star reported that, in a letter dated February 24, the Pikitup board called on Nair to respond to an intention to discipline her, but, two days later, the board changed its mind and she received a letter stating it would discipline her. The letter requests that she provide reasons why she should not be suspended.
It remains unclear why the board suddenly decided to suspend Nair as she has been in office during the entire investigation.
“Whether the board will be able to complete the process in two months, or this will become one of the long, drawn-out sagas that typifies the public sector, where suspensions last for months and months at taxpayers’ expense, is yet to be seen,” said a Pikitup source.
The charges cover several aspects of the tender, including those relating to activities predating Nair’s employment at Pikitup, and activities beyond the scope of Nair’s dealings with the tender process.
However, the source believes there is a witchhunt against Nair.
“The board is throwing the book at Nair in an attempt to oust her, as there are people who believe that her actions in transforming the business and dealing with corrupt elements may have upset people, including certain politicians.
“There are also rumours that there are successors waiting in the wings to take over the reins of the troubled entity,” said the source.
Adding to all the intrigue, it is believed there have been power struggles between the board and Nair, who felt the board was interfering with the operations of the company and that she was constantly being called to account for her actions and decisions.
The board allegedly constantly demanded reports and explanations.
It is also alleged that staff are wary of showing any support for Nair as they feared repercussions and a purge following what is now being seen as Nair’s inevitable departure, with some even suggesting this action is anti-Indian.
Nair is known to have criticised the board’s decision to appoint its own independent legal review team to review the National Treasury findings, and said it was irregular in terms of the Municipal Finance Management Act’s supply-chain management regulations.
She is also believed to have criticised the board for using a legal firm that does not have a website and which allegedly has little experience in public procurement law.
The City of Joburg said it could not comment, but would be putting out a statement on Monday morning.
WHAT THE COUNTS RELATE TO:
* Alleged irregularities surrounding the advertising for the R263 million tender;
* The built-in ability in the tender by Pikitup to increase or decrease the value of the tender at will;
* The increase of costs on the tender from R42m in July 2012 to the current R399m;
* Poor planning by failing to calculate estimates in the supply-chain management;
* Irregularly using the services of the legal firm Bowman Gilfillan.