Sport

The nation waits for ministerial inquiry report into Sascoc

2018-11-19 17:56

With the SA Sport Awards now over, all eyes will be on Sports Minister Tokozile Xasa’s release of the report into alleged misconduct at Sascoc.

Daniel Mothowagae dissects some key points expected to be made public this week.

Call for change

The big question ahead of the release of the ministerial inquiry report into the SA Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (Sascoc) is: Will it mark the end of strongman Gideon Sam’s tenure as president?

Sam, who turns 70 on August 19, has two years remaining to conclude his mandate. He has been ruling the organisation with an iron fist since his first election in 2008.

He was given another four-year term running from November last year until 2020, when he was re-elected unopposed.

However, he has kept a low profile since appearing before the Zulman commission in March.

The commission, tasked with investigating allegations of maladministration and financial irregularities at Sascoc, strongly recommends that “there should be an organisational structural and strategic review, and change in management processes”.

The commission – chaired by retired Judge Ralph Zulman, with former cricket chief Ali Bacher and labour lawyer Shamima Gaibie as his assistants – also suggests that independent persons must hold the presidency of Sascoc, as well as that an accountant and a commercial lawyer should form part of the board.

These appointments should be made on condition that the trio has no affiliation to any sport and recreation body, noted the report, which City Press has seen.

The beleaguered federation has had Patience Shikwambana as acting chief executive since the firing of Tubby Reddy in January.

Sports Minister Tokozile Xasa .Picture: Lefty Shivambu

It also has a special strategic committee that oversees the day-to- day running of the organisation, while Sam’s deputy, Barry Hendricks, has been the one showing up at most local major sporting events and special functions.

Sports Minister Tokozile Xasa told City Press a fortnight ago that she received the report in September, but the delay in releasing it was because of Sascoc’s request for a deadline extension to submit its response.

The confederation only responded on October 19.

“I afforded the opportunity to everybody who is mentioned in the report,” said Xasa at the time, also committing that the report would be made public in “the next three weeks” – meaning this coming week.

Hendricks this week said there was already a turnaround strategy to revive Sascoc: “We thought the report was fair and we have already appointed a task team to review our policies.

"All issues of corporate governance will be addressed as we want to focus on athletes.”

The findings

In light of the submissions made by the Sascoc board during the hearings, the inquiry found that there was no compliance with the basic principles of ethics, transparency, accountability and good governance, or with policies and procedures of managing the affairs of Sascoc, including its financial affairs.

BELEAGUERED Sascoc president Gideon Sam

Sam’s leadership style was also criticised for being “highly inappropriate and not suitable for a public institution like Sascoc, almost dictatorial in nature”.

The administrator is accused of approving the benefits of his board in contravention of Sascoc policies, and that his lack of leadership in considering the outcomes of the investigations held at the behest of Sascoc were profound and resulted in irrational conduct.

The committee did not spare Reddy, either – it condemned his “unethical conduct in relation to the Griffin report [on security at Sascoc]”, an action the commission labelled as “dishonest” and which it said “amounted to a fraudulent misinterpretation”.

The Griffin report found evidence of bugging at Sascoc offices, among other violations, but the inquiry established that the payment for the report by Reddy “from his monies and Volleyball SA coffers appears to be inappropriate and irregular”.

Reddy was fired on allegations of misconduct, including alleged sexual harassment of a woman employee. The commission argues that the Sascoc board dealt with this matter in a “lackadaisical fashion”.

Reddy, however, is challenging his dismissal at the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration.

His case will be heard in January.

The Zulman report also noted that Sascoc chief financial officer Vinesh Maharaj’s conduct in using Sascoc service providers for personal favours for himself and other members of the board constituted conduct akin to corruption.

Maharaj was also axed earlier this year and is jointly contesting his dismissal with Reddy.

In light of the factionalism within the board, the inquiry deduced that the Sascoc board is dysfunctional.

The animosity between Sam and Reddy is also well captured in the findings.

The Olympic committee’s awarding of national colours through its executive management and/or the chief executive was deemed irregular and unlawful.

Mismanagement of funds

The Zulman report found that there was complete mismanagement of funds used for costs associated with international travel for Sascoc board members and senior management.

It specifically highlighted the “excessive travel and subs perks for board members and management”, which it said amounted to an abuse of Sascoc monies and therefore of public funds.

Such benefits are, in the commission’s view, out of sync or incongruous with the principle of the efficient and effective use and management of public funds.

It emerged during the hearings that R2.2 million a year was spent on allowances for the board.

Board members were given R3 500 in allowances a day, with R2 400 a day going to their spouses, during the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Conflict of interest

The inquiry noted that several members of the Sascoc board sat on boards of other entities, some of whom are invariably linked with the interests of Sascoc, such as the National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund and Phumelela Gaming.

Recommendations

The Zulman commission recommended that:

. Sascoc should undertake a complete and thorough audit of its financial transactions for the past five years. These include travel and other benefits, procurement of services, as well as any other irregular or wasteful expenditure that must be dealt with and possibly recovered;

. Travel perks for board members and the federation’s senior management must be revised;

. The National Sport and Recreation Act should be amended to include a revised structure of Sascoc to get clarity about the roles of the sports department, Sascoc and the entities that fall into the definition of sport and recreation;

. Amendments of the Sascoc constitution, including the criteria for the eligibility of members to the board, following a dispute that arose from the 2016 Sascoc elections; and

. Receipt of commissions from other entities in prescribed circumstances must be prohibited, as well
as other issues relevant to the principle of conflict of interest.

What now?

Will this be just another inquiry whose findings and recommendations will have no impact?

More than 40 individuals – including national sports federation representatives, Sascoc board members, as well as former and current employees – provided the Zulman commission with written submissions and oral testimonies during the hearings at Ellis Park over three weeks between February and March.

There were also third parties and interested individuals, such as former Athletics SA (ASA) presidents Leonard Chuene and James Evans, as well as erstwhile ASA general manager Molatelo Malehopo.

If anything, the sports department cannot dissolve the Sascoc board as this will be in contravention of the international sports bodies’ law, which prohibits government interference in entities such as Sascoc.

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June 23 2019