Magalies Water Chairperson Mosotho Petlane has been accused by staff of wasting about R2m on a “futile” nine-day Sweden trip when there was “no budget”. Picture: Facebook

Johannesburg - The “rot” in state-owned entities (SOEs) has claimed another casualty in Magalies Water, where the chairperson is accused of splurging R2million on a foreign trip.

The entity operates across Gauteng, Limpopo and North West.

Senior staff are accusing chairperson Mosotho Petlane of wasting about R2m on a “futile” nine-day Sweden trip when there was “no budget”, and for making “irregular” appointments of “unqualified” people, including that of a 24-year-old graduate, to a managerial position.

In August and September, 12 senior officials - including the chairperson, four members of his board and other senior executives and managers - went on the taxpayer-funded trip to Sweden for the annual World Water Week.

This was despite the SOE’s former general manager for finance, Khumo Kgatuke, asserting in documents seen by The Star that there was “no adequate budget for the international trip for all the candidates”, adding that the available budget for international trips was only R430400.

The Star understands that Kgatuke resigned in July over how the entity was run. But the board approved the trip, which totalled R1845204.36, according to invoices seen by The Star. The amount covered:

An Emirates Airlines round trip via Dubai, which totalled R815304.

Twelve “superior single rooms” for nine nights at the exclusive Sheraton Stockholm Hotel, which totalled R829620.36.

A shuttle service for all 12 officials costing R122880.

International insurance cover from AIG SA totalling R5400.

Service fees to the tune of R72000.

The Star contacted Petlane, but he did not want to comment and referred all questions to Sandile Mkhize, the acting chief executive of Magalies Water.

The entity had initially said it was unaware of the document that stated there was no budget for the international trip.

Upon being shown a document signed by the former head of finance, Mkhize emphasised there was a budget for international trips in the 2017/18 financial year, which amounted to R1.3m, based “on estimates at the time of the budgeting cycle”, which was adopted in May by the executive committee and approved by the board.

"The shortfall (for Sweden) was then covered from the stakeholder engagement budget through movement of funds. In instances where there is a shortfall on the budget amount, a request for the movement of funds is made by the user and approved by the management accounted,” Mkhize said.

The same process was followed for the trip to Sweden, he said. “There was no prejudice on any project for Magalies Water,” he added.

Meanwhile, anger was also expressed by sources at the entity over the “irregular” appointments of two senior managers: Oliver Tsebane as governance, monitoring and compliance specialist; and 24-year-old Tsakane Radebe as general manager in the procurement management unit.

Both these appointments, according to official documents, were rejected by human resources.

Radebe’s appointment was also flagged by the office of the auditor-general as “irregular”.

Mkhize conceded that the AG had flagged Radebe’s appointment, but said they had responded to the findings and implemented remedial action.

He disputed that senior managers had rejected Radebe’s appointment, saying the process was done at board level.

“The board received a legal opinion with regard to the recruitment process followed,” Mkhize said, standing by Radebe’s appointment.

Documents showed that Magalies Water had “deviated from the recruitment process” in appointing Tsebane.

But Mkhize maintained Tsebane was appointed as he was an “internal candidate”, including being the second choice when his post was initially advertised last year.

Mkhize added that a legal opinion was sought for Tsebane’s appointment, which, he said, had confirmed that the appointment was “fair”.

“The chief executive as the accounting officer has the ultimate responsibility for the performance of the organisation and hence the proper staffing,” Mkhize said.

But sources at the entity said morale was low at Magalies Water because of the “shenanigans”, which, they added, was affecting the effective implementation of their work.

They blamed the chairperson, who they accused of being “involved in the (daily) management of the organisation.

"He (Petlane) instructs us on appointments of personnel, especially in supply-chain management."

The Star