Business

Former Acsa CEO is off the hook – allegedly because of political connections

2018-12-03 14:49

The members of the board of Airports Company SA (Acsa) have let former CEO Bongani Maseko off the hook, despite allegations of impropriety hanging over his head.

The move apparently comes as a result of his political connections and because they fear losing their positions.

A source within Acsa said the board would not act against Maseko because he was politically connected.

“In fact,” the source said, “board members were at risk of losing their positions themselves if they dared pursue charges against the CEO.”

Maseko had been serving as Acsa CEO since 2013 and when his contract expired in May this year, it was extended for six months.

The extension ended on Friday and Acsa has since appointed its group executive of governance and assurance, Bongiwe Mbomvu, to act in Maseko’s position.

According to documents City Press has seen, the Acsa board has repeatedly failed to act against Maseko since February 17 last year, when it took a resolution that Maseko should be suspended based on allegations contained in a forensic report compiled by Dr VS Mncube Consulting.

Three other officials were implicated in the forensic report: Jabu Khambule, the retail manager at OR Tambo International Airport; Percy Sithole, the airport’s procurement manager; and group legal manager Bongani Machobane.

The three were charged and have since been fired.

Acsa’s former legal adviser, Bonginkosi Mfusi, who formulated charges against Maseko and the three officials, was fired as well but has gone to the Labour Court to reverse his dismissal, which he claims was unfair.

Maseko referred written questions to the Acsa board, but confirmed that he was on his way out.

He denied involvement in any impropriety, saying the board would not have extended his contract if it had suspected anything was wrong.

“I do not think the board would have done that if there were doubts,” he said.

“There is malice intended, which is not something that state-owned enterprises are immune to.”

The Dr VS Mncube Consulting report, completed in August 2016, painted a gloomy picture of tender irregularities at Acsa. It accused Maseko of the following:

. Exposing Acsa to reputational damage and, possibly, litigation pertaining to irregularities in the awarding of retail tenders at OR Tambo International Airport and Cape Town International Airport;

. Not taking action on findings from an investigation conducted by Deloitte and ignoring legal advice;

. Paying R7.5 million of a R35.2 million invoice to a company that was not entitled to such payment; and

. Possibly using his police contacts to stop the Dr VS Mncube Consulting investigation.

The forensic report indicates that when Maseko was asked to address the question of his engagement with police regarding a service provider, he advised the investigators that “he is friends with General Thai Chime, who is the head of crime intelligence”.

“He contacted his friend, General Chime, and reported the matter,” reads the report.

“He then provided the general with a memory stick, which had a radio interview with [the company]; a radio interview when Mr Maseko responded and all other related information.

“General Chime then allocated this case to Major Tommy Munzhedzi.”

City Press approached Maseko directly for comment.

Maseko had promised City Press about two weeks ago that he was going to ask relevant executives to respond to all the allegations against him regarding tender irregularities, but no response was forthcoming.

He also deflected questions about his position and whether he would be charged to the Acsa board, but no response was forthcoming from the board either.

This week, Acsa spokesperson Hulisani Rasivhaga undertook to source a response from the board – but no response was received at the time of going to print.

Back in February 2017, the board members, according to minutes City Press has seen, debated Maseko’s suspension vigorously. They eventually resolved that “the CEO should be served with the notice of the disciplinary inquiry against him, together with the charges, and that he be suspended subject to due legal process being followed …”

However, the resolution has not been implemented and Maseko may never have to answer to the allegations made against him.

Some of the board members, according to the minutes, were concerned about instability in the organisation if Maseko was suspended. Others raised a concern that the CEO was being treated with kid gloves, while the other officials implicated in the report were being dealt with.

The minutes read: “Dr Mabela [former director Steven Mabela] confirmed that, in principle, the report by Dr Mncube was completed.

"He stated that what Mr Morar [former Acsa chairperson Roshan Morar] has said ... raises an issue on the integrity of the board – and what it means, therefore, was that the three gentlemen did not have to be charged because each and every charge they have was interlinked to the CEO.

“However, when it comes to the CEO, there was a lot of talk [about getting egg on our faces] or that the board needed to be cautious. The question, then, [is] why such a principle was [not] applied to the three gentlemen.”

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December 9 2018