Minister of Communications Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams and her husband Thato. Picture: Siyabulela Duda/GCIS
Minister of Communications Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams and her husband Thato. Picture: Siyabulela Duda/GCIS

Stella Ndabeni’s husband implicated in Usaasa theft

By Ayanda Mdluli Time of article published Sep 11, 2020

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Johannesburg - A draft forensic audit report commissioned by the Universal Service Access Agency (Usaasa) of SA in 2011 made adverse findings against a number of employees in the organisation which included the businessman and now husband of Communications Minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams, Thato Abrahams, while he was an employee at the organisation.

The forensic report, “Investigation into alleged Irregularities and Maladministration”, with regard to various human resource, procurement and governance issues during the period of April 1, 2009 to September 28, 2011 at Usaasa was conducted by Forensic Investigation Risk & Recovery Management (Pty) Limited and is alleged by a whistleblower to have been removed from public record.

It is unclear whether this was done deliberately by Ndabeni-Abrahams while she was deputy minister of her current portfolio and was alleged to be in a relationship with one of those accused in the report at the time.

Independent Media has seen the report where page three of the table of contents shows that Abrahams had been implicated in a human resources irregularity at Usaasa.

The actual pages between 33 and 93 which went into detail about the findings in the report and also implicated Abrahams at Usaasa appear to have been expunged.

Independent Media contacted the auditing firm which conducted the report. A spokesperson in the company, Perun Naidoo, said their firm was instructed by the management of Usaasa to commission the investigation. The firm would not go into detail about the findings.

“Obviously, we would require their consent to release any information. In the circumstances, we regret that we cannot accede to your request without a directive from Usaasa.”

However a source, who asked to remain anonymous and who was close to the developments at the time, alleges that Abrahams had committed theft where about 20 iPads and other electronic gadgets were taken from Usaasa headquarters.

“The forensic report was given to the then deputy minister (Ndabeni-Abrahams) and was concealed from public record while Thato was an employee at Usaasa’s marketing and communications department,” said the source.

Another executive from Usaasa’s finance department at the time, who also asked not to be named, revealed that when he had received the report from the auditing firm and top management, the pages had already been removed.

“By the time the report came to my department, the pages implicating Abrahams and other colleagues had already been removed,” he said.

The report states that around September 2011, the board of directors of Usaasa received information relating to allegations of material breaches of Usaasa’s supply chain management processes and procedures, human resource processes, governance processes and non-compliance with the duly approved delegations of authority of the agency.

According to the report, a decision was taken by the board to institute a forensic investigation into the allegations.

“That is when a task team, consisting of certain board members and the Communications Department’s officials, was appointed to determine the terms of reference for the investigation and to appoint a service provider to conduct the investigation.”

Among its key findings was that the suspension and disciplinary processes that had been instituted against those implicated in wrongdoing had rendered Usaasa dysfunctional, where unauthorised and irregular expenditure had exceeded R 80 million.

“It accordingly appears imperative that appropriate disciplinary, civil and criminal action be taken promptly, if Usaasa is to succeed in delivering on its mandate,” it said.

The forensic firm then subsequently implicated 21 employees in wrongdoing, including Abrahams.

Commenting on the investigation, Abrahams claimed to have no knowledge of the investigation or the report.

As for the iPads, he claims that he took new iPads home to reconfigure them for connection to the Usaasa intranet and once done, he returned them to Usaasa and they were handed over to their intended users.

“I joined Usaasa in 2010, before I met my wife. To avoid any perceived issues of conflict of interest, when my wife was appointed minister, I resigned,” he said.

Ndabeni-Abrahams’s spokesperson, Mish Molakeng, said the minister denied that she had received such a report.

Special Investigative Unit

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