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Graft allegations rock State Information Technology Agency

2019-09-11 14:12

Claims of irregular appointment of consultants and rampant corruption by executive managers have rocked the State Information Technology Agency (Sita).

The agency plays a central role in assisting national, provincial government departments and state-owned entities to procure multimillion rands worth of Information and Communications Technology contracts from service providers.

City Press has learnt that former Sita official, Monwabisi Ruiters made the scathing allegations against his former employer in a petition submitted to the Zondo Commission into State Capture in February.

Similar allegations of maladministration were also made by Ismael Kgatle, another former Sita official, to the office of Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane last year and are being investigated.

Ruiters, former head of the facilities department, was fired in January this year while Kgatle, the former debt controller and shop steward, was dismissed in March last year for various charges.

They both told City Press this week that theirs were “trumped up” charges because they had allegedly raised, internally and externally with government bodies, irregularities in the contracts with service providers to do work for the Sita, which implicated senior managers and board members.

“We are saying disciplinary processes are not the end in themselves and cannot be a measure of determining people’s fate without the facts. We were being drained out of the system. We have detected that this is just how these matters are handled by lawyers representing the Sita,” Ruiters said.

“They created a whistle-blower policy while I was suspended. It was approved while I was suspended and I was charged under that policy,” Kgatle said.

But, Ntutule Tshenye, Sita’s acting CEO, said there were 11 charges against Ruiters and Kgatle relating to irregular procurement, dereliction of duty, doing private business using company resources and gross misconduct.

Tshenye said the Sita has, for the past three years, implemented a board mandated effort to root out corruption and maladministration.

“The disciplinary hearings of Kgatle and Ruiters fell within the ambit of the priority work being done at this time. These broader efforts of the Sita cleanup ultimately led to more than 180 Sita employees being either dismissed, suspended or resigning.

“It was a defining moment for Sita. But, as with any important and necessary changes, it was an extremely difficult time for the agency and staff,” Tshenye said.

Charges brought against Ruiters and Kgatle, he said, were part of Sita’s work to heed government’s call for a clean and improved public service.

“Government’s call to all state-owned enterprises was clear: employees should not be doing business with the state and employees should be prudent in discharging their duties, especially when using tax-payer money and employees actions should be ethical.

“We respect the dignity of our former employees and to be fair to your readers and the public, it should be acknowledged that in both Kgatle’s and Ruiter’s cases, the charges against them were not linked to alleged whistle-blowing,” Tshenye said.

In his petition to the Zondo commission, seen by City Press, Ruiters lists an number of allegations relating to how certain managers working with some board members, circumvented procurement processes in appointing service providers.

In his submission, Ruiters claimed that renowned law firms and forensic investigators were also hired to allegedly purge whistle-blowers.

City Press has seen communication between Ruiters and the commission’s acting secretary Peter Pedlar confirming receipt of his submission and indicating that it would be assessed.

Mbuyiselo Stemela, the commission’s spokesperson, had not responded to questions at the time of writing.

Ruiters also submitted a similar complaint to Mkhwebane’s office last year but it was rejected on the basis that he had to exhaust his disciplinary matter at the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) and the Labour Court.

But Kgatle’s complaint to the Public Protector was accepted. In August last year her office wrote to the Sita board chairperson Zukile Nomvete indicating that an investigation into maladministration and procurement of service providers was underway.

Mkhwebane’s office also requested specific documents relating to procurement of service providers.

Tshenye said the Sita has been cooperating with Mkhwebane’s office since February last year.

Oupa Segalwe, acting spokesperson for Mkhwebane’s office, said during an assessment process to determine jurisdiction and merit, it was discovered that Ruiters already had a pending case at the CCMA.

“He was then advised to exhaust that process first. However, there was a part of his complaint which mirrored the issues that formed part of the complaint lodged anonymously.

“Accordingly, these issues are being dealt with under Kgatle’s matter. The anonymous complainant lodged the complaint as part of a group of employees, including Ruiters,” Segalwe said.

He said allegations of the failure by the Sita to implement a whistle-blowing policy and the alleged victimisation of those who allegedly blew the whistle on corruption were among matters that were being investigated.


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September 15 2019