Dirco DG on precautionary suspension over R118m paid for 'non-existent' land

12 February 2021 - 19:53
By kgothatso madisa AND Kgothatso Madisa
International relations and co-operation minister Naledi Pandor. File photo.
Image: Simphiwe Nkwali/Sunday Times International relations and co-operation minister Naledi Pandor. File photo.

International relations and co-operation director-general Kgabo Mohoai has been placed on precautionary suspension after the department spent R118m of taxpayers' money on a piece of land in New York that did not exist.

TimesLIVE has seen a letter dated February 12 sent by minister Naledi Pandor to staff confirming Mohoai’s suspension.

Pandor's spokesperson Lunga Ngqengelele confirmed the authenticity of the letter, which read: “Please be advised that the director-general Mr KE Mohoai has been placed on a precautionary suspension with effect from February 11 2021.

“This is a precautionary measure that does not constitute a judgment,” wrote Pandor.

Ambassador Nonceba Losi will be acting in the position “until further notice”, said Pandor.

A December 2019 fact-finding mission by the parliamentary portfolio committee on international relations and co-operation found that a piece of land meant to house diplomats that had been paid for did not exist.

In a report dated March 2020, the MPs who sit on the portfolio committee said they embarked on the mission to New York after realising that the R118m spent on the piece of land was most likely fruitless and wasteful expenditure.

The MPs that formed part of the delegation to New York included Tandi Mahambehlala of the ANC who is also the chairperson, Terrence Mpanza (ANC), Xola Nqola (ANC), Mergan Chetty (DA) and Thembi Msane (EFF).

The delegation found no vacant piece of land and only an old dilapidated building where the land was supposed to be despite the R118m already being paid.

“The amount of R118m was noted to have been paid on the basis of a misrepresentation to the department that the real estate agent has bought land to build a suitable and sustainable office building,” the report read.

“The supply chain management challenges associated with the New York pilot project are a source of diplomatic embarrassment and posed both representational and reputational risk to the image of the country.”

The delegation said there was likelihood of wrongdoing and recommended an investigation by the department and that those involved face consequences.

Ngqengelele confirmed that Mohoai was suspended to allow for the investigation to take place.

“I confirm that the DG had been put on precautionary suspension to allow the process of investigation to take place. As the minister said in her letter to staff, this doesn’t constitute judgment but is just a precautionary measure,” said Ngqengelele.