Pretoria - Dina Pule, the former minister of communications, should resign from Parliament, Public Protector Thuli Madonsela has recommended after finding her guilty of unethical conduct, lying, misconduct and irregularly getting staff to extend spousal benefits to her boyfriend Phosane Mngqibisa.
Madonsela also found the former minister of the Department of Communications (DOC) guilty of violating the executive ethics code when she misrepresented Mngqibisa as her spouse and travelled with him overseas at the state’s expense. Pule eventually admitted during the investigation into her case that she had indeed lied about her relationship to Mngqibisa.
Madonsela on Thursday released a report into allegations of maladministration, corruption and the potential conflict of interest emanating from Pule’s conduct in the procurement of service providers for last year’s ICT Indaba.
In her report, Madonsela found Pule’s romantic relationship with Mngqibisa had created a conflict of interest, from which he had benefited inappropriately.
She said: “There was a real conflict of interest on the part of Pule regarding her duty to act in the best interests of the department and her loyalty to Mngqibisa on account of their relationship.”
When faced with a conflict of interest, the minister had chosen his interests above those of her department and ultimately the state, Madonsela said.
Pule had also breached sections of the executive ethics code when she unlawfully extended spousal benefits to Mngqibisa, which amounted to making improper use of allowances available to her.
“Not only did she violate the code by failing to manage the conflict of interest arising from the relationship, but she directed or allowed her staff to violate the law and departmental policies by bringing Mngqibisa into the ICT Indaba co-ordinating process,” she said.
“During an interview with me, Pule admitted they were in a romantic relationship but he was not, however, her spouse as he was already married to someone else under civil law and was therefore not entitled to spousal benefits.”
Madonsela found that among other areas of the violation of her office, Pule had breached Treasury regulations around the granting of gifts, donations and sponsorships when she unlawfully committed R10 million from her department to service provider Carol Bouwer Productions (CBP).
She said Mngqibisa had also unlawfully diverted R15 million from an MTN sponsorship meant for the Indaba into an ABR banking account instead of CBP. He had subsequently transferred R6m into his company, Khenamo Productions.
“He abused the power he enjoyed due to his special relationship with the DOC and Pule,” she said.
He improperly enriched himself from the R6m he siphoned, which had in turn been made possible by the unlawful donation of R10m by Pule, Madonsela said.
She had also probed allegations that Mngqibisa had bought Pule a R10 000 red-soled pair of Christian Louboutin shoes as a gift from Spain, which he was supposed to have paid for with ICT Indaba funds through Khenamo Productions.
“There is no concrete evidence linking the shoes to Mngqibisa or Khenamo. I find no justifiable reason to reject her explanation that she bought the shoes for herself, and owns several shoes from this exclusive brand,” she said.
On her request, Pule had paid back R89 000 to the state, which had been used on Mngqibisa for a trip to Mexico.
Madonsela instructed Pule to quantify all amounts used by the DOC on Mngqibisa’s overseas trip, which should be paid pack by the end of next month.
She said she should consider vacating her seat in Parliament “… to minimise the damage caused by her undermining the institution, particularly by never admitting the truth to the legislature, even after having done so to me”.
The former minister would also have to issue an apology to Carol Bouwer for subjecting her to a hidden agenda, placing her in an untenable position; to the Sunday Times for persistent insults and denial of the truth; affected members of departmental staff for placing them in an unethical situation involving persistent lies and deceit; and to Parliament for misleading it.