Ex-Seta boss in R14.6m scandal
Johannesburg - A report by Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane has revealed how an ex-Seta boss channelled millions of rand to a company owned by his nephew using his official laptop.
Mkhwebane has now referred Oupa Mopaki, former chief executive of the Media, Information and Communication Technology Sector Education and Training Authority (MICT-Seta), to Hawks head Lieutenant-General Godfrey Lebea who will investigate a case of money laundering in terms of the Prevention of Organised Crime Act.
Mopaki, who was fired in 2018, told Independent Media on Wednesday that he intended taking Mkhwebane’s report on review and was due to meet his lawyer on Thursday.
He said Mkhwebane never furnished him with her final report but only the provisional report.
Mopaki further complained that the head of the Chapter 9 institution failed to take into consideration his response to her provisional report.
Mkhwebane found evidence that Mopaki facilitated the payment of almost R15 million to companies linked to his nephew, Tebogo Mashigwane. During investigations, Mashigwane confirmed to Mkhwebane that Mopaki was his uncle.
Mkhwebane also found that MICT-Seta paid over R14.6m following an irregular appointment process to Lylacorp, Network Infraco and Bandwith Technologies, companies linked to Mopaki through his undeclared familial and business relationship with Mashigwane.
All three companies were registered with the Companies and Intellectual Property Commission within five days in December 2011, and Mashigwane is their only current active director.
“Forensic evidence at my disposal from the computer/laptop drive of Mopaki established on a balance of probabilities that Mopaki had a business relationship and vested private interest at both Bandwith Technologies and Network Infraco, which are owned by his nephew Tebogo Mashigwane,” reads Mkhwebane’s report.
She found that Mopaki and Mashigwane exchanged various explicitly business-related communication/e-mails and financial transactions with private companies contracted to the MICT-Seta owned by his nephew.
According to Mkhwebane, Mopaki signed and approved contracts between MICT-Seta and companies owned by Mashigwane without declaring this to the Seta board and was caught in a conflict of interest.
“Prima facie evidence from Mopaki’s official laptop indicated that he was registered on the computer domain on both Bandwith Technologies and Network Infraco and engaged in business and financial-related communications,” Mkhwebane stated in her report.
It is further said that Mopaki also hired Naledi Sibandze to the positions of corporate services manager and senior manager without them being advertised, interviews held and that she was improperly favoured, promoted and appointed without following the Seta’s recruitment and selection policy.
Mkhwebane said Sibandze was dishonest with her investigators when she told them she was promoted after a job grading exercise.
Sibandze’s irregular appointment to both positions resulted in MICT-Seta being prejudiced to the tune of over R5.5m and other qualified people unfairly denied an opportunity to apply or compete for the unadvertised jobs.
A witness told Mkhwebane that Mopaki and Sibandze put undue influence on him to change her job title while the former chief executive threatened to charge him with insubordination and that he would be “wiped out”.
After being placed on precautionary suspension, Mopaki and Sibandze’s services were terminated on March 31 and September 30, 2018, respectively. Mopaki and Sibandze allegedly earned over R3.3m and R2m a year, respectively, in 2018 before they were fired.
In their response, Mopaki and Mashigwane said the public protector misdirected herself both on facts and in law in arriving at her findings and conclusions. Mopaki maintained that for the mere fact that he was Mashigwane’s uncle did not in any way constitute a conflict of interest as MICT-Seta’s disclosure of interests form did not require him to declare a mere family relationship.