14 April 2024 | 03:09 AM

Report damns Gauteng audit unit

Key Takeaways

The Gauteng internal audit unit – responsible for ensuring that the province is corruption-free and that other departments adhere to good governance principles – has been hit by an irregular appointments scandal after an internal investigation revealed several senior managers are unqualified.

The damning report, released last October, said that candidates were appointed to the Gauteng Audit Services (GAS) between 2007 and 2012 despite not meeting minimum requirements or failing interviews.

The investigation followed complaints by other employees to the head of department, Stewart Lumka. The employees also wrote to Gauteng finance MEC, Mandla Nkomfe.

A source in the department, who asked to remain anonymous, said that the GAS is supposed to be “at the heart of fighting corruption, maladministration and irregularities, but this is not happening. The department is not the one uncovering major irregularities. Instead wrongdoing is exposed by the media.”

The source alleged that the irregular appointments were made to assure their loyalty to politicians and senior officials.

The Democratic Alliance’s spokesperson on corruption in Gauteng, Jack Bloom, said: “It appears that the department had no interest in appointing qualified people. These irregular appointments are deliberate; this is how the department is going to keep control of investigations,” said Bloom.

Zero-tolerance approach

At the centre of the row is the GAS’s chief audit executive, Zoliswa Ntombela, who is named in the report as sidestepping policy in making several appointments.

AmaBhungane sent questions to all the implicated employees and senior managers through the department of finance’s communications team. John Sukazi, Nkomfe’s spokesperson, issued one statement on the group’s behalf.

Sukazi said that the department had a zero-tolerance approach to the breaking of rules and regulations. However, the officials in question are still in their positions, with salary packages of nearly R1-million a year for the chief director and R600 000 for a deputy director.

One of the appointments examined by the investigators is that of Judith Nqunqa as chief director in 2011.

The advertisement for the post stipulated a charted accountancy qualification as a minimum requirement for the job. Nqunqa was not qualified.

The investigators’ report notes that the job requirements were changed after the interview to make a CA qualification an “advantage”.

Successful candidate

In addition, after the requirements were changed, the department did not readvertise the post in line with government policy.

Another controversial appointment was that of Nozipho Mavundla, who was made the director of internal audit in 2012.

The interview panel did not re–commend Mavundla but the human resources department did. Although the department decided that she was the most successful candidate, she was “not competent to operate on the level of director”.

According to the report, Ntombela signed the motivation for Mavundla to be hired without discussing it with other panel members.

In addition, Mavundla was sent for competency assessments four months after her appointment, contravening public service regulations, which state that the two best candidates should be sent for assessment before being appointed.

Another appointment that raised eyebrows was that of Floyd Mutoko, hired as assistant director in 2007 despite not being recommended by the interview panel.

The report notes that, after Ntombela spoke to one of the panel members, “she found it appropriate to offer him the post”.

Internal appointee

It adds that Mutoko was promoted in 2009 to deputy director despite two better candidates being recommended.

An internal memorandum noted that the post should go to an internal person rather than other more suitable candidates because the department “had a high number of staff members leaving the unit and leaving a vacuum”.

A similar pattern was observed with Rodger Bhila, who was promoted from assistant director to deputy director despite other candidates being recommended.

Bhila was hired because it was decided that the post should go to an internal appointee.

The report states: “It is evident that Bhila did not meet the minimum requirements … since he has been in a supervisory position for less than a year when he was appointed.”

Another senior manager, Kwezi Figlan, was appointed deputy director although he applied for a junior position and his interview was conducted over the phone.

Policy

The report concluded that both Figlan and Bhila’s appointments were irregular.

However, it did not recommend that strong action be taken against Ntombela and Lumka. Instead, it warned that the human resources department should be more involved in the hiring of candidates to ensure adherence to policy.

And, although finding that the appointments of Figlan and Bhila are unlawful, it says it would be “impracticable for the department to remove the appointees and readvertise or fill the said positions”.

It says the department reserved the right to take action against the panel members or people who were directly responsible for the irregular and unprocedural appointments.

Sukazi said the department had implemented the report’s recommendations and that Nkomfe had decided there was no compelling reason to review the disputed appointments.

In June last year, the Star newspaper reported Nkomfe as admitting that his department had failed to follow proper procurement procedures in awarding a tender worth more than a million rand and that Lumka was among the officials responsible. He was given a warning.

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The M&G Centre for Investigative Journalism, a non-profit initiative to develop investigative journalism in the public interest, produced this story. All views are ours. See www.amabhungane.co.za for our stories, activities and funding sources.

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