Report said charge him, but this CFO’s boss renewed his contract instead
Gauteng CFO was meant to face disciplinary and criminal charges - and he's not the only one
A senior official in the Gauteng economic development department has had his contract renewed despite a recommendation that he be prosecuted for his role in the irregular expenditure of R82m.
The current contract of Abdullah Ismail, the Gauteng economic development, agriculture and rural development chief financial officer, was due to expire in seven months. But it has been renewed for another five years.
Ismail earns more than R1.2m a year, according to the appointment letter, signed on March 13, seen by Times Select. With his new contract he is to pocket more than R1.5m.
His contract was extended by MEC Lebogang Maile, despite a forensic investigation report in 2016 recommending that disciplinary and criminal charges be laid against Ismail and chief communications director Roleta Lebelo.
The report – which was penned by the Gauteng treasury’s forensic audit head, Papadi Makhetha – recommended that Ismail, Lebelo and other officials be disciplined for not following the correct processes in the appointment of service providers for agricultural projects.
Maile said through his spokesperson he was unaware of any recommendation or findings of criminal charges against the two officials, but knew about the recommended disciplinary steps.
Lebelo, who is also fingered in the report, responded to Times Select on behalf of Maile, in her capacity as Maile’s spokesperson. Maile declined to speak directly to Times Select, referring all queries to Lebelo.
“MEC Maile is very committed to clean governance and encourages anyone with evidence that he is not aware of, to please bring such to his attention so that he can act accordingly.”
Lebelo said Maile was only aware of the auditor-general’s report, whose recommendations were in the process of being implemented by the department under the stewardship of the accounting officer.
What does the report say?
The audit committee meeting report, seen by Times Select, reveals a number of companies that benefited through irregular procurement processes worth more than R82m.
The report, drafted by Makhetha, also recommends that action be taken against three members of the bid evaluation committee: Loyiso Mkwana, Andrew Mathabathe and Tebogo Moloto.
Ismail was reportedly found to have appointed a bid adjudication and evaluation committee without the necessary delegation from the head of department (HOD).
Lebelo, in her role as chairperson of the committee, continued with a meeting despite not having a quorum. The committee was also found to have deviated from tender specifications, thus rendering the tenders irregular and invalid.
Maile has never acted on the recommendations, which implied that Ismail did not follow proper procurement processes and failed to advise the HOD that the contracts were irregular and invalid when he sent recommendations for approval.
According to the report, the then HOD Nhlakanipho Nkontwana called for those implicated in the allegations to face disciplinary and criminal charges.
However, Nkontwana was placed on special leave. He told Times Select he was given an order by Maile that Ismail and Lebelo should not face a disciplinary process but be given warning letters instead.
“I ignored that instruction as it was against the law. That is when my troubles started within the department. They made my life so unbearable and I ended up leaving,” Nkontwana said last week.
‘No prescribed processes’
Lebelo confirmed to Times Select that Ismail’s contract had been renewed and no action was taken against the CFO, herself or the other three officials.
“The department requested the Gauteng provincial treasury to investigate all irregular expenditures. The investigations were concluded and the reports were submitted to the then head of department in September 2017. The HOD requested managers cited in the forensic investigation reports to provide representation letters on why disciplinary action should not be taken against them. The officials duly complied and all written responses were sent,” Lebelo explained.
She said all investigation reports are at the premier’s office for co-ordination and further testing.
“The department awaits the response and will comply accordingly with the outcome,” she said.
With regards to Ismail’s contract, Lebelo said: “The review of contracts for senior managers is the prerogative of the executive authority (MEC). The implementation is done in line with the Public Service Act and Public Service Regulation.”
Department of public service and administration spokesperson Mava Scott said there was no prescribed process to deal with a contract extension.
“An executive authority may appoint any person in his or her department in accordance with the act and in such a manner and on such conditions as may be prescribed. An executive authority thus has the power of appointment and extension.”
‘We both remain activists’
Lebelo, who chairs the bid evaluation committee, is a well-known ANC Youth League leader in Limpopo and is active in the Gauteng ANC.
Last weekend she was seen campaigning with Maile and Ekurhuleni executive mayor Mzandile Masina.
Lebelo and Ismail worked in Gauteng’s sport department when Maile was the MEC.
“The MEC and I met in youth politics and have both lead the youth movement in various capacities. We both remain activists. That is the only relationship outside of work that we have,” said Lebelo.
Ismail confirmed that an investigation recommended disciplinary action against him by the previous HOD and to date there has been no sanction against him.
In 2018, more than 300 forensic audits, some dating back nearly a decade, were handed over to the Special Investigating Unit with a view to instituting criminal proceedings and recovering hundreds of millions of rands lost to the Gauteng government through maladministration, corruption and theft.
Nkontwana said one of those audits implicated Ismail and Lebelo.