Nandi Mayathula-Khoza
Johannesburg - The Gauteng Department of Social Development has been accused of “malicious prosecution” following disciplinary steps taken against some senior officials in the department.

MEC Nandi Mayathula-Khoza revealed the charges against the officials on Thursday when she was summoned to appear before the provincial standing committee on public accounts (Scopa).

She told Scopa a forensic investigation conducted by Premier David Makhura had recommended the prosecution of officials who allegedly approved the payment of more than R23million to Life Recovery, a non-profit organisation (NPO) operating as a drug rehabilitation centre in Randfontein.

Initially, R13m was paid to Life Recovery through A re Ageng, a third party company contracted by the department. After the initial payment, Life Recovery was owed R10m, which was never paid.

However, A re Ageng claimed to the department that their account was hacked and that R5m was missing. This prompted Makhura to launch an investigation.

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But sources familiar with the payment told the Saturday Star that the officials fingered for disciplinary hearing were wrongly targeted as they were merely carrying out instructions from their seniors.

The source said it was the political bosses’ decision to occupy the vacant Life Esidimeni building in Randfontein.

In the Scopa hearing, Mayathula-Khoza confirmed the arrangement for A re Ageng to make conduit payment to Life Recovery.

“The department used the conduit (A re Ageng) for efficiency and prompt service delivery. This has been the practice within the department to use a conduit in order to ensure that service delivery is not hampered,” she said.

The MEC also confirmed that none of the officials charged had any links with the missing R5m but said charges against them were based on the recommendations of the law firm, which was appointed by Makhura to do the forensic investigation.

The firm recommended that the officials should be charged for violating the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA).

Mayathula-Khoza further said she agreed with the recommendations. This was despite her admitting before Scopa that it was not unusual for her department to pay NPOs through conduit companies.

Head of department Makhukhu Mampuru told Scopa he had already appointed a junior advocate to prosecute and a senior counsel to preside over the officials' case between December 11 and 13.

However, the officials have raised concerns about the impartiality of the panel.

Saturday Star