Politics / 20 August 2019, 7:01pm / Getrude Makhafola
Johannesburg - The South African Broadcasting Corporation's former interim board members are taking the Special Investigative Unit (SIU) report, which found irregularities in the awarding of a security tender, on review to clear their names.
The former board, led by chairwoman Khanyisile Kweyama, on Tuesday said the report was factually wrong and contained errors. She said the board had at all times taken decisions based on legal advice from the SABC.
"By the time the interim board arrived, the bid execution committee for the security tender had already been constituted and processed the bid. Three companies were presented to the board. Two of the companies, Mjayeli and Mafoko both scored 99 percent and 98,87 percent respectively. They recommended that Mjayeli be appointed," Kweyama, accompanied by four other members, told reporters in Johannesburg.
"We discovered that Mjayeli was excluded [from the tender awarding process] twice before for failing to satisfy requirements. Each time the company was excluded, the tender was cancelled and re-issued, resulting in Mjayeli being recommended."
Mjayeli costed the tender at R183 million over five years while Mafoko's quote was R185 million for the same period. Kweyama added that the board was under pressure to appoint Mjayeli and refused to sign up without due processes. Whistleblowers then alleged serious allegations in the tender adjudication process, prompting the interim board to refer the security tender probe to the SIU.
"We will take the report on review because the recommendations are fatally flawed legally and contain material errors of fact, including a simple matter such as when the matter was referred to the SIU. When allegations were made by whistleblowers, the interim board took those whistleblowers to the SIU and asked them to further investigate...it is therefore incorrect [as stated in the report] that the matter was only taken to the SIU after we left the SABC in March 2018."
"We, at all times acted on legal advice, which clearly showed that our decisions were not just rubber stamps. We were expected to just go with what was presented before us or apply our mind. We were advised to apply our minds and act in the best interests of the SABC."
The SIU probe found wrongdoing by the board for appointing Mafoko, a losing bidder instead of Mjayeli. It found that the board members failed to act in the interests of the SABC by awarding the R185 million tender to Mafoko.
The probe found that the bidding committee was irregularly constituted while the board committed financial misconduct and contravened the PFMA (Public Finance Management Act). The report recommended criminal charges against Kweyama and her team.
Kweyama said all members, who included veteran journalist Mathatha Tsedu, Krish Naidoo, Febe Potgieter-Gqubule and John Matisson were ready to defend their reputations.
"We worked tirelessly to save the SABC and succeeded in cutting losses by R500 million. All five members who served on board are proud of our performance and will defend our reputations vigorously to the full extend of the law. We found it curious that of all SABC cases referred to the SIU by the interim board, this is the only matter in which the SIU recommends criminal action."
Their lawyer Tebogo Malatjie said for an investigation to render one "delinquent", as alleged against the board in the report, there had to be evidence of personal benefit and gross negligence by his clients but there was none.
"The consequences [of being delinquent] are dire and that's why the standard is very high. You cannot literally be a director at any company. You can also not be in a position of trust...you cannot even be a trustee.....you must have been reckless and appropriated and gained for your own benefit and grossly negligent..the worst state anyone could find themselves in.The findings and remedial actions are unfounded. Read the report. There is no single factual finding that supports any gross negligence or personal gain. There is none," Malatjie said.
The interim board was appointed in April 2017 until March 2018. The members resigned one after the other as the tender scandal raged at the cash-strapped public broadcaster last year. The board was accused of appointing a losing bidder to guard the Auckland Park SABC headquarters and that it did not follow proper procedures.