Special Investigating Unit: A crumbling ‘house of cards’

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Ayanda Mdluli

Advocate Jan Lekhoa Mothibi’s house of cards at the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) seems to be falling apart after a series damning allegations were made to parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Justice and Correctional Services relating to the irregular awarding of a multi-million-rand tender to an auditing firm and the subsequent hiring of a Chief Financial Officer where proper procedures were not followed.

Special Investigating Unit Logo. PHOTO: Supplied

A group of whistle blowers at the SIU, whose names are known to Africa News 24-7 came forward with these damning allegations against Mothibi, painting an institution that has been thrown into disarray as a result of inept management and the blatant side lining of due processes when it came to awarding tenders and hiring a CFO that would be responsible for the institutions finances while directly reporting to him.

Mothibi’s alleged conduct has been slammed as irresponsible with the potential to damage the credibility of the institution which is tasked with investigating high-profile cases relating to fraud and corruption in the public sector.

Mothibi is also accused of being a “dictator” and a “liar” who has worked tirelessly to oppress the advancement of African females in the institution to the point where the whistle blowers feel that they are no longer safe at the SIU and have requested parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Justice and Correctional Services to protect them under the whistle blowers act.

Africa News 24-7 is in possession of documents that include a request for an investigation into Mothibi’s conduct which was sent to parliament. In the documents, it is alleged that the SIU awarded a tender to Deloitte for consulting services which far exceeded the contract value.

The tender was meant to procure the services of a provider wo could review, redesign and support the implementation of an organisational structure that would enable the SIU to carry its mandate as well as meet its medium and long-term objectives in an efficient and sustainable way.

When the need for this was identified, Mothibi is alleged to have written a letter to National Treasury requesting a deviation from the normal bidding process and appoint Deloitte as a service provider for the restructuring process.

National Treasury declined Mothibi’s application and ordered him to go through a formal tender process.

In correspondence seen by Africa News 24-7, the National Treasury advised Mothibi that the SIU had an obligation “to ensure that any contract for goods and services was in accordance with a system which is fair, equitable, transparent, competitive and cost effective”.

National Treasury then instructed Mothibi to ensure that the tender was advertised.

According to the whistle blowers, the SIU, under the direction of Mothibi should have known this because it investigates other departments on allegations of corruption.

“Following the National Treasury’s refusal to grant the SIU permission for the single-source selection of the service provider, the SIU advertised the tender. A total of 15 companies submitted proposals and Deloitte won the bid for an amount of R7, 548,683.00.

In the letter of award dated 15 May 2017 and sent to Deloitte, the tender amount was omitted. Whilst the SIU published the award for R7.5 million, a contract that was signed with Deloitte was for R8 million.

According to the whistle blowers, another concern is that whilst the contract signed between the SIU and Deloitte included Remuneration and Incentive for R713, 800, the SIU was prepared to prepare a deviation certificate for this work stream and to appoint Price Water Coopers (PWC), who were not part of the tender process.

Mothibi is also alleged to have irregularly hired Andre Gernandt as Chief Financial Officer (CFO). It later transpired that Gernandt was his former colleague who reported directly to him at Medscheme Holdings between 2014 and 2016.

After Mothibi’s appointment at the SIU on 1 May 2016, Gernandt resigned from Medscheme at the end of May 2016. Whilst the process of appointing a CFO had already started, Adv. Mothibi ordered Human Resource Management to abandon that process.

He then appointed Gernandt outside the recruitment process. Instead of reporting to an Executive: Business Support, Adv. Mothibi directed that Gernandt reports directly to him contrary to the current structure.

When he was appointed as CFO, Gernandt was not subjected to any processes including interview, security vetting and psychometric tests and/or assessments as required in terms of the internal policies. He was offered a salary of about R1.7 million a year (approximately 45% above the salary of his predecessors) to work 3 days a week which is not sustainable considering the SIU’s baseline budget of R300 million.

This has necessitated the SIU to put pressure on government institutions to pay fees in order to meet some of its gratuitous commitments.

On 20 August 2017, Mothibi penned down his own explanation in an article published by Sunday Independent and he stated that “all recruitment processes in the appointment of the CFO were duly followed”.

He went further to state that “the timeline sketched of Gernandt leaving the Medscheme to join the SIU was misleading as he left Medscheme before Mothibi”.

Mothibi responds

Responding to questions sent by Africa News 24-7, Mothibi said the SIU is currently implementing its reorganisation and improvement strategy. He said the process was being derailed by disgruntled employees who are currently facing disciplinary action.

“These allegations are malicious and unfounded and are intended to tarnish the reputation of the SIU,” he said.

Responding to allegations that he did not follow proper procedures when appointing Gerandt as the institution’s CFO, Mothibi explained that Gerandt was appointed on a contract based on the established SIU practice to headhunt and appoint employees on contract.

“The said practice, which was applied to previous Chief Financial Officers and other staff, allows headhunting for specialised skills such as Charted Accountants. The practice entails receiving a CV of the recommended person and engage with the head off the SIU on being satisfied that the person would bring the required specialised skill. The contract amount of Mr Gerandt is confidential employee information which the SIU cannot disclose,” he said.

Commenting on the Deloitte tender, Mothibi said the procurement followed an open and competitive process which is in accordance with the SIU Supply Chain Management (SCM) Policy and Procedure. “The procurement process also followed the National Treasury Prescripts. This process was audited by the SIU Internal Audit and is a subject of audit by the Auditor General,” said Mothibi.

When asked why there was a discrepancy between the amount advertised and the contracted amount, Mothibi said the contractual figure is in line with the award by the bid adjudication committee.

“The award and the amount are consistent with the tender proposal by Deloitte, which stated that the tender price will be adjusted as a result of annual increases to DPSA rates. The BAC was aware of the escalation clause included in the Deloitte proposal and final contracted amount is in line with the recommendation of the BAC and consistent with the recommendations made by the bid evaluation committee,” he explained.