Cape Town - Communications Minister Dina Pule was put on the spot in Parliament on Wedesday over a series of dodgy appointments to top positions in her department and the entities it oversees.
Having been asked whether the department did background checks on candidates for such posts and, given the assurance that it did, she was asked how she had allowed two people with questionable records to get top jobs.
“Can we have a better explanation as to how it came about that Ms Phumla Radebe was appointed as Usaasa (Universal Service and Access Agency of SA) chairwoman, knowing that she left Pikitup in Johannesburg council after a forensic audit revealed tender irregularities in excess of R300 million. Second, how has the honourable minister appointed Mr Reuben Mohlaloga as Icasa (Independent Communications Authority of SA) councillor when he’s under investigation for financial misconduct by the Land Bank, despite opposition concerns about his unsuitability for the position,” asked Cope MP Juli Kilian.
These entities needed people with “squeaky clean governance backgrounds”, she said, and it seemed the background checks had not been done.
Mohlaloga, whose appointment to Icasa was approved by Parliament in November, had been arrested and charged in October with defrauding the Land Bank of R6m.
But Pule pointed out he had been recommended by the communications oversight committee, on which Kilian sits.
“However, we did check and we believe in terms of the constitution, anyone is deemed innocent until proven otherwise. We’ve heard about this and we believe Mr Mohlaloga has not yet been found guilty of any wrongdoing, and that is why we appointed him,” she said.
Radebe’s background check had not revealed any wrongdoing on her part as an individual “in relation to what the honourable member is referring to”, Pule said.
DA MP Marian Shinn said Pule and “those close to you” had “gained the reputation of influencing the choice of incumbents in board and executive positions on a number of entities reporting to your department”. She cited the appointment of SABC chief financial officer Gugu Duda, who she said had been “inserted” into the shortlist by Pule, only to be suspended the same year over alleged procurement irregularities.
Shinn said one of the “tasks” during her short tenure had been to approve R3m funding for an ICT Indaba, hosted by the department, without the necessary approval.
Pule is awaiting the outcome of an investigation by Parliament’s ethics committee into allegations her alleged boyfriend made unauthorised use of sponsorship money for the indaba after she pressured the organiser to hire him.
Police were also investigating reports that Pule’s alleged boyfriend, Phosane Mngqibisa, influenced appointments to the SA Post Office, Sentech and other entities, Shinn said.
Referring to Pule’s intention to amend the Broadcasting Act to give the minister more say in the appointment of board members, Shinn said “years of political meddling by you and your predecessors are taking their toll on the public broadcaster (SABC)”.
“Why will you not legislate that board and council appointments of the entities are by Parliament in a transparent and open process?”
Pule insisted the appointment of executives was done by boards of the entities, while boards were chosen through a public nomination process that culminated in recommendations to the minister.
Cope MP Papi Kganare asked Pule to deny Mngqibisa had influenced appointments, but the question was ruled out of order as the matter is before the ethics committee.
Meanwhile, Pule’s directorgeneral, Rosey Sekese, has denied a claim by the minister in Parliament that she had made herself scarce since returning to work from special leave following a successful application to the Labour Court. Sekese said she had been away from work on sick leave, and the minister had been informed.