Gobodo to probe graft claims at BEE agency
Top BEE ratings agency Empowerdex, which has been suspended as a verification agency while the government investigates it, has enlisted the services of Gobodo Forensic & Investigative Accounting to probe allegations of corruption against an employee.
If the probe shows wrongdoing, the agency will pursue criminal charges against those responsible, says Empowerdex co-founder Vuyo Jack.
Department of trade & industry spokesperson Sidwell Medupe said the South African National Accreditation System (Sanas), which reports to the department, had suspended Empowerdex on April 5.
He said a technical assessment had found that the agency had failed to produce accurate and reliable broad-based BEE (BBBEE) certificates.
Former Bosasa COO Angelo Agrizzi was reported testifying to the Zondo commission of inquiry into state capture last month that Bosasa had paid an Empowerdex employee R40,000 to ensure the company and its subsidiaries got favourable ratings.However, Medupe said Sanas's action against Empowerdex was independent of Agrizzi's testimony."Following prior complaints, the BBBEE commission is conducting an investigation in terms of the . 2013 BBBEE Act. The outcome will be communicated in due course," he said.He would not disclose further details of the complaints.Jack, who is also the chair of Empowerdex, said the government investigation would assess the agency's files and systems for weaknesses."We wish to categorically state that the testimony of Agrizzi goes against our values and principles as a company, and having regard to the seriousness of the matter."We have appointed an independent third party [Gobodo Forensic & Investigative Accounting] to thoroughly investigate," he said."Should the outcome of the investigation support Agrizzi's testimony, appropriate action will be taken against the individuals concerned, including but not limited to laying criminal charges."Our focus right now is to address Sanas's concerns and ensure that we get through this assessment in as short a period as possible in order to restore our reputation."We will work constructively with them while we conduct our own external investigations."Jack said the employee in question had left Empowerdex before Agrizzi's allegations at the commission.He founded Empowerdex in 2001 with Chia-Chao Wu, who came to SA from Taiwan in 1985.The agency has provided services to more than 6,000 companies.It provides private and public sector organisations with BEE ratings and also helps companies understand BEE legislation and what it requires of them.Jack was part of the department of trade & industry's BEE task team in 2003.