Ex-CFO can’t stop SIU block on pension for dodgy PPE deal

By Loyiso Sidimba Time of article published Jun 20, 2021

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A Former senior government official has failed to stall the bid by Special Investigating Unit (SIU) bid to prevent him from accessing his pension benefits for his role in awarding a dodgy personal protective equipment (PPE) contract.

The National Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development’s erstwhile chief financial officer Jacob Hlatshwayo this week was prevented from accessing his pension benefits by the Special Tribunal for irregularly and unlawfully awarding an R11.5 million PPE contract to supply 400 000 masks in April last year to Centurion, Tshwane-based Black Dot.

The SIU wants the contract awarded to Black Dot to be reviewed and set aside as it was awarded without compliance with the applicable regulatory framework that regulated emergency procurement at the start of the Covid19 pandemic and to recover from the company and/or Hlatshwayo the loss the state incurred due to the alleged irregular and unlawful procurement.

The Special Tribunal this week granted the SIU an interdict and restraining order stopping the government Employees Pension Fund (GEPF) and the department from making payment to Hlatshwayo, or any other party, any amount in his pension benefits pending the final determination of action including all appeals and petitions instituted by the SIU.

Judge Lebogang Modiba delivered her ruling following attempts by Hlatshwayo to delay the finalisation of the matter.

In her judgment handed down on Tuesday, Judge Modiba heavily criticised Hlatshwayo’s conduct in the matter.

Hlatshwayo filed an application at the tribunal to postpone the matter in order to enable him to file a replying affidavit in his bid to compel the corruption-busting unit and his former employer to hand over to him certain documents he claimed were in their possession.

“Hlatshwayo’s conduct in both the application to compel and the interdict application has been extremely dilatory,” Judge Modiba found.

The interdict application refers to the SIU’s successful bid to stop the payment of Hlatshwayo’s pension.

She said no reasons were advanced explaining why Hlatshwayo’s replying affidavit in the application to compel discovery of certain documents was not prepared and only delivered on the morning of the hearing last month.

Judge Modiba explained that Hlatshwayo’s application to compel discovery was ill-fated and that if granted the postponement application will only have a dilatory effect.

The judge was also unhappy with Hlatshwayo’s generally dilatory conduct in seeking discovery, his failure to seek condonation for filing his answering affidavit late in the interdict application and the fact that he sought to compel the discovery of documents that are not in the SIU’s possession.

“The Special Tribunal takes a very dim view of Hlatshwayo’s dilatory conduct in calling for the discovery of the requested documents. Before the rule nisi lapsed, Hlatshwayo filed a comprehensive answering affidavit without reference to the documents he now seeks discovered... Hlatshwayo waited until the date set for the hearing of the interdict application to argue the application to compel discovery,” reads the judgment.

A rule nisi is an order directed at certain parties for them to appear in court on a certain date and show cause why the court should not grant a final order.

Earlier this year, the SIU failed to institute its proceedings against Hlatshwayo within 30 days after the tribunal granted it a preservation order stopping the GEPF from paying out the former CFO’s pension benefits in December.

Judge Modiba said it was regrettable that the SIU failed to comply with this condition resulting in the rule nisi lapsing.

The SIU revived the lapsed rule nisi to ensure that the GEPF does not release Hlatshwayo’s pension benefits pending the action it intends to institute against him to recover any losses suffered by the state.

Hlatshwayo was appointed CFO.

Sunday Independent

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