Heritage agency’s troubles thicken, staff demand investigation

Written by Yazeed Kamaldien

Financial mismanagement, alleged nepotism and its chief executive’s resignation this week has led troubled staff at the South African Heritage Resources Agency (Sahra) seek intervention from a worker’s union yesterday.

Sahra is a government organisation “responsible for the protection of South Africa’s cultural heritage”. Its head office is in central Cape Town.

Sahra staff yesterday met with the National Education Health & Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) to assist it to resolve long-standing issues with its management.

Nehawu’s provincial secretary Luthando Nogcinisa said yesterday they would “meetSahra management on Monday”. Attempts to get comment from Sahra management – all out of town on a strategy meeting – were unsuccessful yesterday.

Sahra’s staff wants its management’s financial expenditure investigated.

In a letter to management, staff also want investigations into the appointments of the “chief financial officer, human resources executive, human resources manager, company secretary, office manager and previous chief executive officer”.

When the Weekend Argus visited Sahra in Harrington Street yesterday, staff outlined their grievances. They did not want to reveal their names publicly, for fear of losing their jobs.

One staffer said: “We are not happy about the CEO’s (Peter Mokwena) resignation after only four months of him being here. The council (which appoints the CEO) has frustrated and suffocated him.

“He is a man of principle who abides by the law. Sahra’s current leadership has no regard for laws, policies and procedures. We have leadership in the council serving their financial interests.

“They are wasting money. They recently bought (electronic) tablets for all eleven council members. They don’t need that. It’s wasteful expenditure.”

Another staffer said the CEO’s “life was made so unbearable that he couldn’t take it anymore”.

“He had his own vision for Sahra and the council chairperson had his own vision. The council wants to get someone they can manipulate the person. He didn’t allow them to manipulate him.”

Weekend Argus repeatedly tried to contact Mokwena this week but he did not reply to any requests for an interview.

Weekend Argus meanwhile has documents indicating a top manager employed a relative in a mid-career management position at Sahra. Other employees have appealed to Nehawu to assist with investigating this.

The union said in a letter to Sahra management it would “expose all forms of corruption, nepotism and other unethical conduct”.

“It seems to suggest you condone nepotism and this is unfortunately compromises the integrity of your management and the good name of your institution,” it said.

Staff also claim Sahra’s former acting chief executive Mmabatho Ramagoshi inappropriately last year appointed its chief financial officer Catherine Motsitsi.

Motsitsi was allegedly appointed while she was suspended as the chief financial officer at the public works department.

This was after public protector Thuli Madonsela named her as an official involved in authorising the department’s expenditure on President Jacob Zuma’s home in Nkandla in KwaZulu-Natal.

Ramagoshi and Motsitsi had rented accommodation at Mandela Rhodes Place hotel in contradiction of Sahra policy. The latter states employees should be allowed only a month’s rent when newly employed.

The national auditor-general’s office in its financial report for 2013/14 dated 30 July 2014 confirmed rental at Mandela Rhodes Place totalled R264,432 over six months.

It said this payment was “not valid as it constitutes an additional benefit over and above the amounts agreed to in the employment contract”.

The auditor-general also said management did “not take effective steps to prevent fruitless and wasteful expenditure”.

It said a task team should also investigate “supply chain management irregularities, nepotism against certain employees and subsistence and travel claims”.

It found “amounts quoted did not seem reasonable when compared to the service procured” for two service providers at a Sahra property in King Williams Town.

A company located at the same address in Mdantsane quoted under different company names for grass cutting services and fixing a toilet costing up to R30,000 per service.

Motsisi as chief financial officer would have had oversight of this matter. The auditor-general said the service provider contracted would “be reported to the national treasury for blacklisting”.

The auditor-general repeatedly over the last few years found financial mismanagement atSahra.

In its 2012/13 report it found Sahra assets worth R10-million had gone missing. That same year it had irregular expenditure of R7.106-m.

The national arts and culture department said it “heard about the CEO’s apparent resignation”. Sahra is mandated to report to the department.

Its spokeswoman Lisa Combrinck said the department was “confident that we will experience improvement when Sahra published its annual report in September”.

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About Yazeed Kamaldien

Self-employed journalist and photographer from South Africa.

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