Manching Benedicta Monama

BALDWIN NDABA

GAUTENG Transport head Benedicta Monama is in trouble after signing a R3 billion contract – despite repeated warnings by the provincial Treasury that the deal was illegal.

Finance MEC Mandla Nkomfe has recommended that Monama, without mentioning her by name, and her subordinate be “subjected to a disciplinary process” and that they and the service provider officials be compelled to pay back any costs incurred by the state.

Monama’s political boss, Transport MEC Ismail Vadi – who was made aware of the deal on May 31 – was livid last night and demanded answers from his top civil servant.

“I conferred with the MEC for finance on the matter. We both agreed that the said (service level agreement) is unlawful.

“I have formally written to (Monama) informing her that I consider the (agreement) to be invalid and of no force and effect. I also indicated to (Monama) that she was acting without the required authority or mandate to conclude the (agreement). This matter, together with the AuditorGeneral’s report released recently, is currently under further investigation by my office,” Vadi said.

The Treasury had cautioned Monama in February to halt the awarding of the contract, and later advised her against appointing WestPoint Trading Enterprise 123 to manage and operate more driving licence testing centres.

The Treasury argued that the centres were not sustainable, and pointed out the poor management of cash and staff at the centres. The centres were established to test cars’ roadworthiness and learner drivers’ ability.

Provincial treasury head Nomfundo Tshabalala wrote two letters to Monama in February and April, and Nkomfe wrote to Vadi this month to complain about the “illegal” contract.

“This agreement violates a number of prescripts, including the Public Finance Management Act… The agreement further violates the National Roads Traffic Act, which compels the MEC of transport to appoint registering authority and testing authority,” Nkomfe said, emphasising that “WestPoint Trading Enterprise is not an authorised authority and cannot act as an agent of the department in the management and operations” of the centres.

“In addition, there were no proper supply-chain management processes followed as WestPoint Trading Enterprise was not appointed through a competitive tender process,” he said.

Nkomfe recommended in his letter that “Treasury recommends that this agreement be terminated with immediate effect, and any cost incurred as a result of this agreement be recovered from the service provider and the officials concerned”.

The treasury conducted preliminary investigations into the viability of the contract.

The report found there were a lot of problems at the centres managed by WestPoint. These include:

lPoor and no proper maintenance;

lLack of effective cash management policies and procedures;

lLow morale and staff tension among various stakeholders; and

lSustainability of the centres.

The Treasury warned Monama that she “should rather put a hold on a further rollout so as to observe the current model of (the centres) with the view to revise and realign, to realise efficiencies”.

Tshabalala wrote: “Notwithstanding the need to ensure that the (centres) are profitable, it is our view that since a study is still under way, the Department of Roads and Transport should NOT enter into any further financial commitments pertaining to the management of (centres) or the implementation of the turnaround strategy before the (centres’) study is completed, and the findings and recommendations thereof are presented to the relevant stakeholders, including the accounting officers and member of the executive councils (MECs) responsible for Finance and Roads and Transport.

“We therefore recommend to the Department of Roads and Transport not to enter into any financial commitments, and it pertains to the management of the (centres) until our study has been completed.”

But the next day Monama signed the 10-year agreement.

Monama said: “I do not want to respond to my boss in the media.”

WestPoint’s managing director, Zazi Dladla, could not be reached for comment.