Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Top Economic Affairs officials suspended


THREE senior Department of Economic Affairs officials have been suspended amid allegations of financial mismanagement .

While details of their suspensions are being kept under wraps, it is understood the action stems from a departmental investigation that found serious financial misconduct and “irregular activities”.

Reluctant to divulge any further details, the department’s head, Dr Enyinna Nkem Abonta, yesterday confirmed the suspension of finance director Bulelwa Sigwili, chief financial officer Siziwe Mbolompo and human resources head Busi Pityi.

Another manager, Sarita Maasdorp, deputy director of finance, was also suspended but has since returned to work. She refused to comment.

“Their suspensions were essentially triggered by the forensic investigation,” said Nkem Abonta.

However, he said Pityi’s suspension was not primarily related to the forensic report, but also influenced by “other internal matters”.

Nkem Abonta, who personally ordered the forensic investigation, said the department was busy compiling charges and would proceed with disciplinary action once charge sheets were finalised.

Provincial director-general (DG) Dr Sibongile Mutwa was fully briefed about the matter and Nkem Abonta said the Office of the Premier was supporting the process.

“The DG has been briefed and we have asked for their support because of the seniority of the officials involved,” he said. Mutwa could not be reached yesterday.

Although provincial government spokesperson Phaphama Mfenyana also could not provide further details, he did however warn that: “There is no fear or favour when it comes to disciplinary action.”

A source within the department said the suspensions were “very sensitive” and were being dealt with “very secretively”.

“Their suspensions are hush-hush and all we are told is that the Head of Department’s (HoD) office is dealing with it,” said the source.

The three suspensions were passed as the department’s former MEC, Mbulelo Sogoni, was being sworn in as the new premier.

The three were handed suspension letters a week before Phumulo Masualle was appointed as the department’s new MEC.

Masualle yesterday said he was yet to be given a thorough briefing on the matter, but added he was informed about the alleged malpractice involving the three on Wednesday – two days after taking up office.

“This is something that happened before I took up my position, but from information I have there was an internal investigation commissioned which pointed to certain irregularities,” he said.

He vowed that officials would not be put on prolonged periods of suspension on full pay. “The matter must be dealt with speedily,” he said.

Pityi and Mbolompo yesterday denied being suspended for financial irregularities, instead claiming that their suspension letters mentioned the auditor-general’s report.

“The HoD told me that I was being suspended because of an anonymous letter and because (human resources) matters kept coming up in the AG report,” said Pityi.

Sigwili could not be reached for comment last night. - By CHANDRÉ PRINCE

The same theme: Cprruption, corruption, corruption.



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