An uproar over the recent appointment of Gauteng Gambling Board (GGB) CEO, Karabo Mbele has resurfaced after a letter written by its employees of the provinces department of economic development was left unanswered by the provincial government.
In the joint letter, seen by The Sunday Independent, claims that Mbele, before her appointment, had been embroiled in a cloud of corrupt activities including that she and her associates had squandered more R15 million through unregistered and unapproved Non Profit Organisations of which the funds were meant for charity.
The letter, addressed to Gauteng premier Panyaza Lesufi, also accuses the department’s MEC Tasneem Motara, who overlooks the government entity, of protecting Mbele despite her being aware of the allegations against Mbele.
In March this year Motara, who was appointed mec in 2022, dissolved the agency’s board after a battle with the leadership of the board over the recruitment of a new head.
However, Motara was forced to reinstate the board by the Pretoria High court citing that she had no reason to dissolve the panel.
The letter further states that Motara removed the then CEO Thiran Marimuthu after six months because she favoured Mbele despite the decision of appointing a CEO lying with the board.
Adding to the allegations the letter suggests that Mbele may have been implicated in a forensic investigation that was commissioned by the then Premier David Makhura who employed Sekelaxabiso Privitiva (SkX) in 2020 before Lesufi succeeded him.
These investigation included among others fruitless and wasteful expenditure relating to a trip to London for a GGB board member, alleged diversion of funds to the GGB from a fined licensee to a charitable organisation, alleged maladministration, financial misconduct, and governance breakdown in the disbursements of funds allocated to the GGB’s Socio-Economic Development Department, of which Mbele previously was head.
The letter reads in part: “The further investigations recommended in the SkX and commissioned by the board, dissolved by Ms Motara have irregularly been suspended by Ms Motara and Ms Mbele without the knowledge of the premier. For example the the forensic investigation company was that was commissioned to look into the possible irregularities around between the years of grant funding 2015 and 2020 ( the period when Ms Mbele was head of the GGb’s Socio Economic Development Department) had indicated its anticipation to provide a full report of it investigation by the end of April 2023.”
Questions sent by Sunday Independent to the Gauteng office of the premier on 22 October through email were not responded to.
However, responding to the publication on Friday, Motara branded the allegations as unfounded by “anonymous staff members.”
“There have been a number of complaints purported to be from staff members against a number of other staff members. These complaints have come from anonymous sources and written to the board.
“Unfortunately the manner in which these matters were raised made it extremely difficult for the board to address within the Labour law framework,” she said
Addressing the forensic reports she added: “A forensic report was completed which found the previous CEO, Mr Steven Ngubeni to have transgressed certain policies and practices. This report was acted on by the then Administrator, and the matter was deemed closed and concluded. Interestingly enough, Mr Ngubeni took the report on review and before the review process could be concluded, the Administrator concluded an out of court review settlement with Mr Ngobeni.
“This report done by Sekela is where the matter of R15m was raised. The R15m that Nexus refers to is the R15m confirmed by the first report.
“An investigator was appointed - Stoop and Associates - the investigation was conducted and concluded and found that Ms Mbele was not implicated in any wrongdoing.
“I believe that most employees have welcomed the appointment of Ms Mbele and have found her work and leadership style to be refreshing and insightful. Those that did not like the fact that she was appointed and maybe would have preferred if it were someone else, unfortunately were not involved in the process to appoint a CEO and their preferences could not be considered,” Motara said.
The DA in Gauteng have called on Lesufi to institute the Special Investigating Unit to investigate the allegations against Motara and Mbele.
Its member of legislature Patrick Atkinson wrote in a statement: “DA demands an SIU investigation into alleged institutional capture and financial misconduct by MEC Motara at Gauteng Gambling Board
“A group of concerned Gauteng Gambling Board (GGB) employees have written a joint letter to Premier Lesufi regarding allegations of maladministration, financial misconduct, governance breakdown, and institutional capture.
The Democratic Alliance (DA) in Gauteng demands that Premier Panyaza Lesufi request the SIU to urgently investigate the serious allegations.”