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Seta boss fired for ‘helping nephew score contracts’, promoting ‘girlfriend’

2018-11-16 05:33

The head of a sector education and training authority has been fired for allegedly helping his nephew to score lucrative contracts and having his alleged girlfriend appointed and promoted without following processes.

In August last year, City Press revealed allegations that Oupa Mopaki, chief executive of the Media, Information and Communication Technologies Sector Education and Training Authority (MICT Seta), had failed to declare his interest in companies that made millions from the Seta he runs.

Read: Seta board to probe CEO

At the time, sources claimed Mopaki was colluding with his nephew, Tebogo Mashigwane.

In documents seen by City Press then, Mashigwane was the director of Network Infraco and his name also appeared in contracts between the Seta and two other companies – Lylacorp and Bandwidth Technologies.

Sources also alleged at the time that Mopaki was involved in an intimate relationship with Naledi Sibandze, the former corporate services senior manager at the Seta, and questioned her appointment as a temporary supply chain officer when she started working at the Seta in 2009.

This allegation could not be published as it could not be verified at the time.

But a whistleblower, who used to be a human resources and industrial relations specialist at the Seta, alleged in a sworn affidavit seen by City Press, that he suspected that Mopaki and Sibandze were involved in an intimate relationship.

The whistleblower opened the case at the Vosloorus Police Station in May this year after he was interviewed by Gobodo Forensic and Investigative Accounting investigators in February in connection with an investigation into irregularities in the awarding of discretionary grants and recruitment processes at the Seta.

Gobodo investigators were hired by the Seta in January following the City Press exposé last year.

City Press established that Vosloorus police were investigating a case of intimidation against Mopaki and Sibandze – opened by two whistleblowers who used to be employees at the Seta.

One of these whistleblowers made the relationship allegation.

Vosloorus police spokesperson Captain Piet Rossouw confirmed the case was being investigated.

According to the Gobodo report dated March 19 and seen by City Press, investigators found that Sibandze’s appointment at the Seta in 2009 was flawed and that from the beginning Mopaki increased her salary from R250 000 a year to R350 000 a year before her position was made permanent.

Investigators found that with the help of Mopaki, she moved up the ranks as her salary also increased over the years to more than a million rand a year.

Sibandze has since left the Seta after cutting a deal.

Gobodo investigators recommended disciplinary action against Mopaki and Sibandze and also recommended that the Seta should pursue civil action to recover funds from any implicated individual involved in the irregular awarding of contracts and non-payment of stipends to deserving students, who were interns at these entities.

When asked about the investigation, GFIA director Grant Buchler referred questions to the Seta whose head office is in Midrand and has regional offices in Durban, Cape Town, East London and Klerksdorp.

“As I advised on a previous occasion, GFIA does not, as a matter of policy, comment to third parties on the content of our forensic investigations conducted for our clients. Unfortunately, therefore, I am unable to supply the information you have requested,” Buchler said.

MICT Seta spokesperson Xabiso Matshikiza declined to comment on whether there was an intimate relationship between Mopaki and Sibandze but confirmed they were no longer employees.

She said this followed recommendations made by Gobodo’s March 19 and May 4 supplementary reports.

Matshikiza would not divulge recommendations and findings but said the investigators were hired following receipt of complaints and findings from the Auditor-General. But she didn’t respond at the time of writing when asked to provide the Auditor-General report.

Matshikiza said Mopaki’s contract was not renewed in March.

Read: Officials suspended as probe starts at communications Seta

She said Mopaki was due to appear before a disciplinary hearing after being “charged with acts of misconduct committed during his tenure” and his “contract of employment terminated by affluxion of time”.

Matshikiza said Mopaki had attempted to challenge this at the Labour Court claiming it was “constructive dismissal” but the matter was dismissed and there was a pending case at the Gauteng High Court where he is challenging the Seta’s “decision not to retain him”.

She said Seta’s board chairperson Sihle Ngubane has reported a criminal case against Mopaki and his co-perpetrators at the Midrand Police Station on August 16.

“The criminal offences are in relation to fraud, corruption, the contravention of the Public Finance Management Act 1 of 1999, and the contravention of the Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act 12 of 2004.

“Civil proceedings against Mr Mopaki and his co-perpetrators for the recovery of damages suffered by the Seta, will be instituted in due course,” Matshikiza said.

Matshikiza also confirmed that Sibandze was “no longer an employee”. She said the matter between Sibandze and the Seta was “resolved amicably” but she did not explain what led to the decision.

According to the March 19 Gobodo report, Mopaki faced charges “arising from funding paid” to three entities and Northern Links Trading 371 (Pty) Ltd, “linked to his nephew” and that “Mopaki failed to declare his interest in these contracts and may have been influential in the awarding thereof”.

“In our view, it is probable that Bandwidth Technologies, Lylacorp and Network Infraco were formed with the specific purpose of gaining access to discretionary grant funding from the Seta,” the report said in part.

According to the report:

• Bandwidth Technologies received R15 900 000 in 2014/15; and R6 405 000 in 2016/17;

• Lylacorp received R21 200 000 in 2014/15; R16 990 000 in 2016/17; and R2 800.000 in 2017/18; and

• Network Infraco received R32 860 000 in 2014/15; and R29 200 000 in 2016/17.

With regard to Northern Lights Trading 371 (Pty) Ltd, the report said Mashigwane was one of the two directors of entity, which received funding totalling R11 240 000.

“Mopaki signed on behalf of the Seta all of the service level agreements entered with these entities,” the report said.

The other charge he faced related to the irregular manner in which Sibandze was appointed and promoted without posts being advertised and how Mopaki increased her salary without seeking approval from the Finance and Recommendation Committee (FinRemCo), a sub-committee of the Seta board.

Sibandze faced charges relating to instructing the Seta’s former human resources and industrial relations specialist – one of the whistleblowers who opened a case against her and Mopaki – to submit a memorandum to 21st Century Pay Solutions Group (Pty) Ltd in 2012.

The company was procured in 2012 by the Seta to conduct job evaluation and grading.

The report said Sibandze instructed the whistleblower with a “view to influencing them [21st Century] to recommend that her position be upgraded to Senior Manager, after they [21st Century] had concluded that her post did not qualify for this”.

At the time, Sibandze was corporate services manager.

The report said despite 21st Century’s disapproval, Mopaki wrote a letter to Sibandze advising her that with effect from July 1 2012 her annual remuneration package has been adjusted from R620 000 to R910 307.

Other charges relate to Sibandzi having included her name and position on a schedule of employees recommended for salary increases in 2017.

She recommended that her salary of R1 283 504 a year be increased to R1 650 000, which was signed by Mopaki.

Attempts were made to get a comment from Mopaki and Sibandzi but proved futile.

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September 15 2019