Corruption case opened against top officials at Public Service Commission

15 July 2020 - 20:44 By Aron Hyman
Two top officials at the Public Service Commission (PSC) face charges following the leaking of a report, titled “Professionally Unethical”, by advocate Smanga Sethene.
Two top officials at the Public Service Commission (PSC) face charges following the leaking of a report, titled “Professionally Unethical”, by advocate Smanga Sethene.
Image: 123RF/Dmitrii Balabanov

A criminal case for alleged corruption was opened on Wednesday by the DA against two top officials at the Public Service Commission (PSC), which acts as a watchdog over the country's public service.

This follows the leaking of a report, based on an investigation commissioned by the office of the state attorney in January, which allegedly found that PSC director-general Dovhani Mamphiswana influenced the appointment of Boitumelo Mogwe to the position of chief director of professional ethics, which comes with an annual salary of R1.3m.

Speaking outside parliament after opening a case at Cape Town central police station, DA shadow minister for public service and administration Dr Leon Schreiber said the case was “particularly shocking” because the PSC was supposed to be the premier ethics watchdog over the public service.

“What we see now is the director-general, so the top official, himself being implicated in an egregious case of corruption. So it’s for this reason — as the report itself recommends that criminal charges need to be laid in terms of the prevention and combating of corrupt activities act — that I this morning laid charges,” said Schreiber.

“The appointment was made in December of 2019, but the story came out in the media in January this year. What happened then is that after a long, convoluted process, there was an advocate appointed by the state attorney’s office.

“However, what is particularly concerning is that back in February already, the advocate investigating this matter recommended to the president that the DG must be suspended pending the investigation.”

PSC director-general Dovhani Mamphiswana in a picture from July 2019. He told TimesLIVE he was perusing the document that forms the basis of corruption allegations against him.
PSC director-general Dovhani Mamphiswana in a picture from July 2019. He told TimesLIVE he was perusing the document that forms the basis of corruption allegations against him.
Image: Facebook/Dovhani Mamphiswana

Schreiber said he decided to open a case against them after the report was leaked to him.

“The concerning thing is this report was tabled a week ago already — the DA has obtained it thanks to a brave whistle blower — but as far as we understand, the president has taken absolutely no action in this case,” he said.

Mogwe was contacted by TimesLIVE but referred all questions to the PSC media office.

Mamphiswana told TimesLIVE that he did not have any comment and he was studying the report.  

He added that he had not received any communication from the PSC about a disciplinary hearing against him or whether any criminal charges would be laid by the institution.

PSC chairperson Richard Sizani said the commission received the report last Wednesday and it still needed to be processed and evaluated by their legal team.

“We also get advice about the processes to follow. This is what has been happening. There is no use going public with a report you have not read and considered. I cannot help leaks,” he said.

“Once all these are done, we will transparently follow all the processes required by law, including a disciplinary case. We ask for space to process the report after proper legal advice. Then we can explain why we do this and not that.

“There is no regulation that says an investigation report has to be confidential. With respect, whoever said that report should be confidential, I’m not sure what their rational was behind that.” 

The report into allegations of nepotism, titled “Professionally Unethical”, was put together by advocate Smanga Sethene.

Some of the report's findings include:

  • questions around whether Mogwe had the necessary experience for the position,
  • documents from home affairs indicating that Mogwe and Mamphiswana were the biological parents of a child; and
  • that Mamphiswana did not recuse himself from the selection process when the appointment was made.

Sethene told TimesLIVE that his report’s findings were never meant to be confidential. One of his recommendations was that it and the interview transcripts be made available to PSC staff members on the organisation's website.

Schreiber charged that an internal memorandum sent out to PSC commissioners on July 13, which says the report should be “treated as confidential”, was an attempt to cover up the findings.

“Nowhere in my report is the word 'confidential' even mentioned. That report is not even watermarked as confidential. There was never an instruction that the report should be confidential from the state attorney himself,” said Sethene.

Sethene said there was no basis in law following a Constitutional Court judgment last year that parties needed to be given an opportunity to comment on draft reports.

“That is no longer necessary — a person will get their fair chance in the disciplinary hearing itself. Even if that was the case, you can only give a person an opportunity to comment on a draft if that person has co-operated. They never co-operated, and it’s detailed in the report,” he said.


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