Senior officials suspended over ‘illicit’ procurement

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Newly-appointed MEC Mbali Hlophe. Mbali Hlophe. Picture: Supplied

Johannesburg – A number of senior executives who are suspected of being involved in maladministration and the illicit procurement of surveillance equipment and other services at the Gauteng Department of Sports, Recreation, Arts and Culture have been suspended in a clean-up drive by newly appointed MEC Mbali Hlophe, according to a whistle-blower within the department.

This follows allegations of illegal recordings of meetings and surveillance of employees.

This came to light following the famous “combi courts meeting” recording where former MEC Faith Mazibuko was recorded in a meeting with senior executive members, “against the prescripts of governments Minimum Information Security Services”.

Public and Allied Workers Union of South Africa (Pawusa) sent a memorandum of issues against the department to the director-general in the Office of the Gauteng Premier on May 3, in which the allegations of the non-procedural installation of security cameras was first made, according to documents that Independent Media has seen.

In the memorandum, the union calls for the removal of a senior official sighting her incompetence to head the department diligently.

A whistle-blower supplied a memorandum allegedly signed by the senior official who requested R350000 to purchase the spying equipment for three senior executives who have also been suspended.

The revelation of the memo prompted the MEC to initiate an investigation through the State Security Agency which ultimately led to the suspension of senior officials, including director for supply chain management Koketso Lekalakala.

“We can confirm that there is an investigation into the alleged illegally procured and installed surveillance cameras in the department, and two senior officials are currently under precautionary suspension. Due to the sensitivity of the matter, the office cannot provide further details into the case,” the office of the MEC said.

When asked whether executives were allowed to procure surveillance equipment without the approval of the previous MEC at the time, Hlophe said procedurally, the previous MEC was supposed to be informed.

“If the surveillance equipment was procured and installed illegally, consequence management and the full might of the law will have to ensue accordingly,” she said.

A memo drafted in February by a senior official in corporate services, who has since resigned, asked for security equipment to be installed in the building.

In the memo, the official asks for cameras at the various entry/exit door with 24/7 monitoring, recording and back-up infrastructure, with timed movement detection.

According to documents, the officials in question are also alleged to have presided over a procurement process where one company ended up having a monopoly over most of the events that were funded by the department in the last financial year.

“The request and signing off of the memorandum was highly irregular, which has led to an internal investigation. On top of that, the department’s director of supply chain management, Koketso Lekalakala, was suspended as she rubber-stamped the procurement processes. She was also involved in other activities where events funded by the department were being channelled to one company,” said the whistle-blower.

It is alleged that businessman Sammy Mashita and his wife, Pheladi Mphahlele, were close to Lekalakala. The couple own Be Sure Events and Crocia Events. Mphahlele owns another events management company called Red Cherry which also does business with a number of government departments.

Lekalakala’s suspension is linked to her attending a marquee hosted by Red Cherry and Crocia Events at the Durban July last year.

Mashita said he did business with all government departments but would not confirm whether he or his wife had relationships with other heads of procurement.

Special Investigations Unit