Kimberley - DA councillor Apostle Shaine Griqua has appealed his sentence of spending 60 days in prison, after he was found to be in contempt of a court order by withholding information relating to the financial affairs of the Lesbian, Gay and Bixsexual Organisation (Legbo).

Right to Care (RTC) approached the Northern Cape High Court last year in an attempt to obtain the First National Bank (FNB) and Nedbank bank statements, details of all the transactions made from April 1 2016 to date, as well as the salary slips of its employees, employee contracts and records of Legbo.

The non-profit organisation claimed that Griqua, who is a director of Legbo, was also liable to pay a fine.

Griqua’s sentence was suspended on February 21 on condition that he complied with the order within 10 days.

However, the sheriff of the Northern Cape High Court was ordered on March 14 to immediately bring Griqua to explain himself before court.

RTC wants Legbo to account for the funds that it provided to them to run HIV prevention services in the Northern Cape.

In court papers, counsel for RTC, advocate Jawaid Babamia, stated that despite several requests and countless “indulgences” being granted, Legbo had failed to furnish documents needed to perform audits and financial reviews.

“It was prohibited from using the funds for any purpose other than set out in the agreement. During May 9 to 11, 2016, RTC conducted a compliance review at Legbo’s premises. The compliance review revealed questionable financial transactions undertaken by Legbo that warranted further investigation.”

Babamia pointed out that as the person responsible for overseeing withdrawals from Legbo’s accounts, there was no reason why Griqua could not make these bank statements available.

Eyebrows were raised regarding salaries paid to four “purported employees” although no records existed to verify the payments.

A salary was also paid from the Legbo bank account that RTC had instructed them to close in 2014.

Salaries deducted from the bank account to the employees started at R4 487.04, while the salary paid to Griqua amounted to over R22 000 to R23 000.

Babamia pointed out that despite the removal of RTC’s project-related equipment from Legbo’s premises, including computers, where Legbo was unable to provide the information requested, it did not excuse Legbo from keeping proper records.

RTC believed that the unauthorised use of the bank account as well as the payment made into this account in April 2016, showed cause to conduct a forensic audit into the bank statements and transactions.

The organisation also picked up inconsistencies with the recorded payments into purported employees’ accounts and the salaries stipulated in their contracts.

“This glaring inconsistency reinforces the concerns regarding the legitimacy of the distribution of RTC’s funds by Legbo,” Babamia stated.

RTC was unable to verify the information provided to them due to outstanding bank statements along with insufficient employee information.

In September 2017 it was advised that both the FNB and Nedbank accounts had been closed, where Griqua did not have the funds to procure the bank statements and that he had lost all contact with the purported employees.

RTC discovered that payroll payments were made to bank account numbers that were not linked to authorised bank account numbers in the human resources files.

Salaries were paid to an employee after his contract was terminated while former employees who were not on the payroll system were receiving salaries.

The deputy chief financial officer of RTC, Kate Havemann, pointed out that Griqua’s conduct was “clearly contemptuous” and undermined the authority of the court.

“Griqua has provided no evidence to demonstrate that he has undertaken any steps at all to procure the relevant documents. Instead, he has proffered unsubstantial excuses for refusing to comply with the court order.”

In answering papers, Griqua, as the chairperson of Legbo and the programme manager of the project, explained that the treasurer of Legbo had arranged for the funds to be deposited into his (Griqua’s) bank account and maintained that proper records were kept of all the finances.

He stated that the project was Legbo’s main source of funding.

“At the time of the conclusion of the agreement with RTC, RTC instructed Legbo to close the Nedbank account, as it was not an interest bearing account. During November 2014 RTC instructed Legbo to transfer all the funds received from them into the FNB account.”

Griqua added that while all the monies paid into the Nedbank account were accounted for by Legbo from July until November 2014, the bank statements for the FNB account would be difficult to provide.

“Such transactions were the responsibility of the treasurer of Legbo, who is no longer there. In fact, Legbo has not been carrying on with business since RTC withdrew its funding. We had to close our doors as RTC was the only funder at that stage.”

In a letter, the HR officer took responsibility for the “mess” and admitted that due to her “unconscious negligence” she accepted the bank details of employees on a “little piece of paper”.

Griqua said the reporting system was only available for July 2014 until March 2016, where former employees had to volunteer their services as they had no more funds.

“Legbo continually asked RTC how it was expected to report, as the system was not available as it did not make provision for April and May 2016. All the equipment, including the computers, were taken away in August and September 2016 and we could not complete the report as we did not have the resources or human capital.”

Griqua emphasised that they were not provided with the technical support to comply with the agreement.

“Legbo was informed that all documents were supposed to be kept on the computer system provided by a service provider, whom we couldn’t pay after May 2016. Not all the documents were saved.”

He indicated that it was unfair that he should be imprisoned because of the inability of Legbo to provide RTC with information that was already in their possession.

DFA