Pule paper trail reveals how her lover's cronies got jobs
Communications Minister Dina Pule blew R2.6-million on a recruitment deal that led to the appointment of cronies of her boyfriend, Phosane Mngqibisa, to the boards of key parastatals.
The Sunday Times has seen a paper trail of memos detailing how Pule bypassed Treasury rules.
Pule also faces a probe by the public protector and parliament's ethics committee after the Sunday Times exposed how she learnt on telecoms firms to sponsor last year's ICT Indaba, from which Mngqibisa earned a R6-million fee.
The Sunday Times also exposed how Mngqibisa engineered the appointment of a relative, Lulama Makhobo, to SABC CEO, as well as his friend Gugu Duda to chief financial officer at the broadcaster.
One of Phosane's friends, former Sunday Times journalist Wisani Ngobeni, has been appointed as a chief director of communication from tomorrow.
The new documents show that Pule ensured that a recruitment firm, Mindworx, which has links to Mngqibisa and her office's project manager, Andiswa Booysen, was awarded the R2.6-million deal without a bidding process.
Booysen worked as a project manager for Mindworx and was afterwards hired by Mngqibisa's company, Khemano, before Pule appointed her as "project manager - office of the minister", where her duties included supervising the ICT Indaba.
Mindworx was tasked to fill board vacancies for the Post Office, Postbank, ZA Name Authority, Sentech, the National Electronic Media Institute of South Africa and the Universal Access Agency.
The Sunday Times has established that the company recruited at least five cronies of Pule and Mngqibisa - Sentech chairman Thabo Mongake, Post Office chairman George Mothema and board member Buhle Mthethwa, and Universal Access Agency board members Phumla Radebe and Angie Maseka.
Mindworx was tasked to fill vacancies for top posts in the Department of Communications itself - a job that another company, Basadzi Personnel, had already been hired for after winning a tender on February 22 2011. The reason given for booting Basadzi was that it had used poor quality fonts in a job advert.
Correspondence between Mindworx and the department reveals the pressure on the recruitment firm to appoint inappropriate candidates. In an e-mail, Mindworx refuses to endorse two candidates "since they do not meet the required criteria".
The events that led to Mindworx appointing Pule's cronies was started by a letter she wrote to her director-general, Rosey Seseke, on December 6 2011, giving her the deadline of filling the posts by January 2012.
On December 7 2011, Seseke wrote an internal memo ordering her officials to cancel Basadzi's contract and appoint a new head-hunting firm. Within days memos were issued authorising a deviation from procurement regulations, to appoint Mindworx.
Mindworx's job was expanded "to head-hunt board members of SOEs ... based on the instruction from ministry" to fill vacancies in state-owned entities", a memo dated February 3 2012 states. A month later, Seseke signed a R2.625-million contract with Mindworx to find the members of telecoms parastatals' boards.
At least two appointments proved wholly inappropriate and had to be reversed. Pule announced the appointment of Maseka and Maxwell Nonge as new deputy chair and board member of the Universal Access Agency on September 3 2012. But within days they were told to step down after complaints from telecoms companies that the senior positions they occupied at state-owned signal distributor Sentech was a conflict of interest.
The agency was previously criticised for throwing lavish Christmas parties and failing to meet 91% of its targets to curb excessive spending on management salaries and bonuses.
Mindworx CEO Jonah Naidoo conceded that the department had not always chosen the candidates it recommended. "The client will inevitably choose who they want."
He said he knew Mngqibisa "from the past - we've done work together", but denied he had been instructed to head-hunt Mngqibisa's or Pule's cronies for parastatal boards. "We had no pressure. We submitted a list of people and the client makes the decision. We wouldn't know if they had a relationship with the minister."
He said he was unaware that the head-hunting deal that Mindworx won had not gone out to tender. "We were asked by the department to put in a bid and we submitted a proposal that was fair value for money. We followed all proper procedures."
Mothema and Nonge admitted that they knew Mngqibisa, but Maseka refused to discuss her relationship with him. Mthethwa, Mongake and Radebe could not be reached.
Pule's spokesman, Siya Qoza, said the Sunday Times was "wilfully misleading the public" without providing "any proof that Minister Pule meddled in procurement processes in the Department".
"The department appoints its service providers, officials and members of the board who serve on state-owned companies that report to the department on merit and after following due government rules and regulations. The minister gave a legitimate instruction to the department's officials [that] does not make any reference to the appointment of any service provider or any tender process."
"A right-thinking person can never interpret this as an instruction to violate tender processes and Treasury rules. If the Sunday Times has information of any violation of procurement processes, the newspaper's editors are welcome to provide such evidence to the relevant law enforcement authorities."
The department declined to respond to detailed questions, but said it had complied with all supply- chain rules.