A man wearing protective gear sprays disinfectant while sanitizing. REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha
A man wearing protective gear sprays disinfectant while sanitizing. REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha

Corruption-accused Joburg Property Company CEO and CFO return to work despite SIU probe

By Lee Rondganger Time of article published May 12, 2021

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Durban - Helen Botes, the embattled chief executive of the Joburg Property Company and her chief financial officer, Imraan Bhamjee, who have been both been implicated in a Special Investiging Unit (SIU) probe into financial misconduct, returned to work on Wednesday despite the dark cloud hanging over them.

In March, an SIU report found that five senior employees of the Joburg Property Company (JPC), including Botes and Bhamjee, might be guilty of financial misconduct in the awarding of contracts to provide deep-cleaning and sanitisation services.

President Cyril Ramaphosa mandated the SIU to probe the misappropriation of public funds related to government’s multibillion-rand Covid-19 expenditure

According to the SIU reports, the JPC officials inflated prices quoted by the service providers, which caused the city-owned entity to incur fruitless and wasteful expenditure of R18 321 620.

The JPC, a City of Joburg entity, is mandated to manage and develop the billions of rand in city property assets for the purpose of maximising their social and commercial opportunities.

In addition to Botes and Bhamjee, other JPC employees implicated are senior manager of supply chain management Fitzgerald Ramaboea, general manager of special projects Gowrie Sunker, and supply chain management manager Nandisa Zondo.

The report states that all five might be guilty of misconduct in relation to the awarding of a contract to provide deep-cleaning and sanitisation services to KM Mashigo Trading CC, Omphile Turnkey & Solutions (Pty) Ltd, Mizana Trading and Triple SL Tech CC.

The companies were allowed to inflate prices.

Botes and Bhamjee were suspended by the previous JPC board in September 2020, in light of the allegations against them.

However, to the surprise of many, they returned to work on Wednesday.

It was unclear at the time of publishing whether Joburg mayor Geoff Makhubo was aware that they had returned to work.

Makhubo’s spokesperson, Mlimandlela Ndamase, said the mayor and the mayoral committee were not in support of the decision to allow Botes and Bhamjee back.

“This is based on the SIU report which has findings that are adverse on the JPC.

“The Board has taken the decisions witnessed and the Mayor has directed the MMC for Economic Development to intervene in the matter and advise the Mayoral Committee,” he said.

On April 23, Moeketsi Rabodila, the new JPC board chairperson, wrote to mayor Makhubo to inform him that the board had taken a decision at their meeting two days previously to lift the suspensions of Botes and Bhamjee.

In response, Makhubo warned the board against reinstating Botes and Bhamjee.

He asked the board to provide him with answers on whether they had considered the SIU report, its contents, findings and conclusions, and what the implications of the SIU report on their decision would be.

Ntombi Khumalo, the DA City of Johannesburg shadow MMC for Economic Development, in a statement on Wednesday accused Makhubo of approving Botes and Bhamjee’s return.

“From May 2020, the DA has been demanding answers from the mayor, who at every turn has dodged accountability and attempted to hide the true figures of more than R600 million in corruption linked to Covid-expenditure,” Khumalo said.

“This includes at least R150m spent on fogging and ’deep-cleaning’ facilities, despite advice from the national Department of Health and the World Health Organization that these practices are ineffective in preventing the spread of Covid-19. In some cases, the City paid for empty buildings and parking lots to be fogged. Even when challenged, the mayor and his cabinet have continued to defend these practices and the millions that are being wasted on them,” she said.

Khumalo said they would demand accountability from the mayor and called for him to suspend Botes and Bhamjee.

“I will be laying criminal charges against Botes and Bhamjee, and all officials implicated in the forensic reports. Johannesburg residents deserve a clean, well-run City which puts them first,” she said.

This story has been updated with comments from Joburg Mayor, Geoff Makhubo’s spokesman.

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