‘It’s a witch-hunt’: Minister cries foul over ‘dodgy’ probe
Public works minister says there are ulterior motives behind claims the hiring of his CFO was irregular
A cabinet minister has launched a blistering attack on a constitutional body charged with ensuring compliance with public service regulations, accusing the institution of conducting a “witch-hunt” against him.
In a submission in response to a preliminary report by the Public Service Commission (PSC), public works minister Thulas Nxesi says the chapter 9 institution is being driven by “ulterior motives” in its investigation into the alleged irregular appointment of the department’s CFO, Cox Mokgoro.
The PSC preliminary report, presented to parliament’s standing committee on public accounts (Scopa) last month, has found Mokgoro’s appointment to be irregular and that Nxesi had a hand in it.
The PSC found that Mokgoro was hired under dubious circumstances since his appointment came about as a secondment facilitated by a private firm, Honey Cloud Enterprises, of which Mokgoro is the sole owner and director.
This effectively means that Mokgoro seconded himself to the department from his position as an audit committee member of the Independent Development Trust (IDT) – a public works entity.
But Nxesi has come out guns blazing against the PSC, saying the commission had in July this year accepted his explanation for how Mokgoro became CFO, and he was puzzled by the somersault.
“DPW made it very clear to the PSC back in July 2018 that Mr Mokgoro was contracted by the IDT after been persuaded by the then chairperson of the IDT board and its CEO at the time of the secondment to DPW to help address the skills deficit.
“At the time, the PSC accepted my explanation. It is not clear what has changed since then,” says Nxesi in his submission.
Nxesi said the probe “appears to be a witch-hunt rather than” helping to identify weaknesses in the processes of the department.
“It appears the PSC report is designed to pursue ulterior motives which are aimed at tarnishing the image of the minister without necessarily getting at the bottom of the challenges faced by DPW in managing secondments.”
Nxesi also said he was not happy that the PSC had made no findings or observations regarding the role of his predecessor, Nathi Nhleko, and current director-general Sam Vukela who had extended the previous secondments of Mokgoro.
Nxesi said he was stunned that the report made no findings on the role of Vukela and other officials who played a role in the secondment of Mokgoro.
Nxesi and Vukela do not see eye to eye regarding the management of the department and the minister has since asked President Cyril Ramaphosa to intervene in their standoff by transferring the director-general to another department.
At a meeting between the department, the PSC and Scopa a fortnight ago, Vukela said he accepted the PSC’s findings.
The PSC had not responded to requests for comment at the time of publishing.
PSC spokesperson Humprey Ramafoko said they did not discuss investigations with the media.
Nxesi was not reachable for comment but his deputy, Jeremy Cronin, confirmed the submission to the PSC.