Sascoc inquiry: 'It sounds to me like a whole bunch of corrupt activities'
Committee members probing SA Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (Sascoc) governance matters have branded as corrupt the “common practice” of board members and staff seeking favours from service providers.
Vinesh Maharaj‚ who was fired as CFO early this year‚ on Thursday testified that president Gideon Sam and an employee‚ Clifford Cobers‚ had received free services from M&M Hiring‚ while board member Kobus Marais was given a free suit from another supplier.
Maharaj cited these examples to justify his own dealing with another service provider that had been used against him at his disciplinary hearing‚ where he was found guilty of this and other charges. Maharaj didn’t attend the hearing.
Fli-Afrika‚ Sascoc’s travel agent‚ had paid money to a company‚ Brad’s Glass and Aluminium (BGA)‚ on Maharaj’s behalf for work to be done at the CFO’s house.
Maharaj told the committee he had become particularly friendly with Fli-Afrika director Nazeer Camaroodeen who had spotted the BGA quotation on his desk one day and offered to pay for the work up front‚ debiting Maharaj’s private account for the amount.
According to the summary of the disciplinary hearing‚ Fli-Afrika meant to pay R50 000 to BGA‚ but erroneously transferred just more than R535 000‚ forcing them to ask for a refund of R485 000.
“In terms of board members and staff‚ a number of them interact with our preferred suppliers‚ hence they would have accounts with them in their personal capacities‚ so I learned that M&M Hiring provided tables‚ chairs‚ decor to Mr Gideon Sam‚” said Maharaj.
“I later learned that M&M didn’t charge him for that.”
Maharaj said he was approached by Marais‚ a Democratic Alliance member of Parliament‚ who was keen on obtaining a suit that had been tailored for the Durban 2022 bid committee‚ but without the logo.
“After a board meeting he came into my office and asked whether I would be able to speak to the suppliers to do a suit because his son’s getting married in January …
“Eventually the supplier did provide the suit and he provided it free of charge.”
Maharaj said employee Clifford Cobers had got married “at the house of M&M Hiring where a marquee was put … and I understand that he didn’t actually pay for the services”.
Labour lawyer Shamima Gaibie‚ one of the three committee members‚ took Maharaj to task on his defence of the Fli-Afrika payment.
“You justify that on the basis that you say other members of the board also got favours from other service providers‚ such as M&M Hiring.”
Maharaj: “Yes‚ either through me or on their own accord.”
Gaibie: “It sounds to me like a whole bunch of corrupt activities.”
Maharaj: “I don’t think so … I have always indicated to my staff‚ all preferred suppliers‚ even though they provide the quotations‚ they must verify‚ and they must ask for further discounts because we’re an NGO and we basically live from hand to mouth so on that basis and my staff will attest to…”
It sounds to me like a whole bunch of corrupt activitiesShamima Gaibie
Interjected Gaibie: “The problem I have is this – that you have service providers who provide services to Sascoc. They get paid for these services and what individuals in Sascoc have now done is to take advantage of that relationship for their own benefit‚ and therein lies the corruption.
“You don’t see it that way? It’s just as a favour that the service providers provide to individual members of management?”
Maharaj: “But not only management. Management and the board and staff.”
Gaibie: “Yes‚ whichever way you look at it you cannot justify that kind of conduct on your behalf by simply referring to a practice within Sascoc.”
Maharaj: “Well‚ I think the service providers have become part of the family of Olympism.”
Gaibie: “And that’s the problem‚ that’s the problem — that individuals within the organisation think it’s okay to take advantage of service providers who make a whole world of money from Sascoc.”
Her colleague on the committee‚ veteran cricket administrator Dr Ali Bacher‚ was equally appalled.
Bacher: “That’s unbelievable. The implication is as follows: that when that board member goes to a board meeting in a year’s time‚ two years’ time‚ when that supplier’s contract is over and there’s a tender process‚ that board member’s going to remember that he got something free from that supplier and the likelihood is he will support it. I mean it’s not acceptable …
“I feel strongly as she does that it’s unacceptable and you see nothing wrong with that?”
Maharaj: “It has been common practice.”
Bacher: “Common practice? But it can’t be right.”