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Maritime authority’s acting head walks the plank

THE SOUTH African Maritime Safety Authority (Samsa) is throwing the book at its acting CEO, Sobantu Tilayi.

THE SOUTH African Maritime Safety Authority (Samsa) is throwing the book at its acting CEO, Sobantu Tilayi.

Published May 4, 2022


THE SOUTH African Maritime Safety Authority (Samsa) is throwing the book at its acting CEO, Sobantu Tilayi, who was suspended in April last year and now faces a list of charges after a forensic investigation report was released recently.

In a report of more than 160 pages, accountancy and audit firm Morar Incorporated outlined numerous issues including allegations that Tilayi overstepped his position and was allegedly implicit in corruption and cronyism, which placed the organisation’s stability and reputation at risk.

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The report noted there was a lack of clarity on his qualifications, the interference with the business of independent contractor South African Marine Fuels (Samf), facilitating payment for friends and the improper appointment of executives, among other things.

In a brief response yesterday, Tilayi said he was applying his mind to the matter.

“It is my view that I should petition the public protector to stop this witch-hunt at the expense of the state,” he said.

The charge sheet from board chairperson Nthato Minyuku to Tilayi, in the appendix to the report, stated: “You abused your position of authority at Samsa by overstepping your duties and responsibilities from 2016, whilst acting as Samsa’s chief executive officer by interfering with the BEE (black economic empowerment) ownership structure of Samf, potential contractual arrangements between (Thamsanqa) Gcaba and Samf and interventions between Samf, Gcaba and other entities.”

The charge alleges that Tilayi abused his position of authority at Samsa while acting as Samsa’s CEO by divulging Samsa’s Vision in a conversation with Gcaba, who was only one player in the industry, thus, giving him an unfair competitive advantage over other players in the industry.

In November last year, Samsa appointed Morar Incorporated to conduct an investigation into various allegations received from the Disabled People of South Africa (DPSA), which implicated Tilayi, Lesego Mashishi, the chief human capital officer, and Lolo Raphadu, the company secretary.

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Raphadu also has some infringements to answer for, according to the report. This after he transplanted the signature of previous board chairperson Mavuso Msimang into a request for a R15 million transfer of funds from the Maritime Fund to Samsa, which had been at the instigation of Tilayi to boost coffers following the economic inertia brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdowns.

The DPSA subsequently withdrew the allegations last month after its board chairperson, Looks Matoto, acting on behalf of the DPSA, addressed a letter to an apparently fictitious Richard Kawie regarding the withdrawal of all legal action brought before court in the name of the organisation.

The report said Matoto indicated that legal action was purportedly carried out under his name, including some media statements, without his knowledge.

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The investigators still pursued “new” allegations and whistle-blower reports highlighting some of the issues raised in the DPSA matter, but contained numerous new allegations not relating directly to the three suspended executives, or the charges they were asked to respond to in September 2020, or the allegations on which they were suspended in April 2021.

“The ‘new’ allegations related to a number of general board issues, general management issues, general human capital/resources issues, general issues of a systemic nature and broad alleged financial misconduct,” investigators said.

Tilayi currently faces about eight charges of misconduct including overstepping his authority and gross negligence or the dereliction of his duties.

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Another charge is related to the failure to recuse himself from the panel assessing the appointment of the executive head of corporate affairs, Vusi September, whose qualifications were suspect, and he had also listed Tilayi as a reference in his CV.

Another charge related to misconduct in pursuing a matter, despite legal advice, on the lifting of a bunkering licence on an unfairly suspended company and failing to ensure proper SCM/procurement processes were followed in contracting with a prospective landlord and further failure to submit lease contracts to the board for approval, resulting in fruitless and wasteful expenditure.

He is also accused of acting in bad faith by providing contradictory statements and documentation to Samsa, regarding the circumstances surrounding the termination of his employment at the National Ports Authority in 2004.

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