DURBAN:030210 KZN Economic Development and Tourism MEC Mike Mabuyakhulu, right, congratulates Pablo Garcia, left, of global airport operator World Flight Services, which was chosen last year to operate the Dube TradePort Cargo Terminal. Looking on is Dube TradePort CEO Rohan Persad. PICTURE: MARILYN BERNARD PICTURE: MARILYN BERNARD

Suspended Dube TradePort CEO Rohan Persad, who has been fingered in graft allegations involving the former operators of the trade port’s cargo terminal Worldwide Flight Services SA (WFS-SA), has gone to ground.

Persad, who has been suspended by the Dube TradePort board pending an independent probe into the cargo terminal contract, is yet to comment on the allegations published in the Sunday Tribune a week ago.

They relate to Persad being involved in a corrupt relationship with Alex McRoberts, director of WFS-SA, and to attempts to secure a 40-percent stake in the company.

The contract, reportedly worth R50 million a year, is for ground-handling services at the Dube TradePort Cargo Terminal at King Shaka International Airport.

After an apparent acrimonious bust-up, it is alleged this led to the cancellation of WFS-SA’s contract at the TradePort.

The Mercury understands that a complaint with allegations of corruption at Dube TradePort has also been lodged with Public Protector Thuli Madonsela’s office. However, her office had not confirmed this last night.

The complainant has questioned several other contracts awarded by Dube TradePort or in the process of being awarded.

These include contracts related to the AgriZone, a new R250m link road, and plans for a general aviation hangar.

The source also questioned Dube TradePort’s continued use of the same service providers such as Virtual Consulting Services and public relations and marking consortium Cube.

The Dube TradePort board, chaired by Bridgette Gasa, said that it would appoint an independent audit firm to probe the contract. Both Persad and McRoberts were given seven days to respond to the allegations.

The board said that, based on the seriousness of the allegations, it had decided to place the CEO on a precautionary suspension pending the outcome of the board’s review.

It expected that Persad would cooperate and comply within the seven-day period to respond.

“It must be clear that we are asking for this information as part of an initial enquiry so as to protect the reputation of the organisation and whatever risks that may accrue to the organisation,” the board said.

It said that in placing Persad on “precautionary suspension”, it was “not casting aspersions on the integrity of the CEO”.

It announced the appointment of Jan Willem Lotz as acting CEO. The board said it had consulted with Economic Development MEC Michael Mabuyakhulu, whose department was in charge of Dube TradePort.

Mabuyakhulu had given the board’s actions his full support. – The Mercury, with additional reporting by Leanne Jansen