Heritage resources agency responds to allegations, criticism

Written by Yazeed Kamaldien

Claims of wasteful expenditure at the seemingly troubled South African Heritage Resources Agency (Sahra) are false, said its council chairman yesterday.

Chairman Fanie Makhanya was replying to a report in Weekend Argus last week which stated that Sahra was wasting money. These claims were based on interviews with staff and reports over the last few years from the national auditor-general.

But Makhanya defended their expenses, particularly the recent purchase of digital tablets mentioned in last week’s report.

“You write about Sahra allegedly ‘wasting money’ on the purchase of electronic tablets for the 11 members of council. This is false,” he said in a written response.

“Council regulations authorise the purchase of work tools to empower council members to carry out their duties. Due process was followed to solicit quotes from suppliers, for the supply of these electronic tablets.”

He added: “Sahra identified the need to reduce escalating costs associated with the printing and courier of large volumes of documents for its council members. The use of tablets is of financial benefit to both Sahra and council.

“The fact that less paper would be used for the compilation of council packs is also an environmentally-friendly benefit. The tablets remain the property of Sahra.”

Makhanya defended Sahra’s decision to employ as chief financial officer Catherine Motsitsi. Public protector Thuli Madonsela had in her investigation found that Motsisi approved an expense towards President Jacob Zuma’s Nkandla home.

Madonsela’s report states Motsisi approved an expense of just under R40-million.

Makhanya said: “Motsisi was but one of many officials interviewed as part of the public protector’s investigation.

“The public protector makes no allegations against Motsisi, neither does the public protector recommend any steps to be taken against her.”

Makhanya said Sahra’s “accidental payment has been corrected” in relation to rental paid for Motsisi and its former chief executive Mmabatho Ramagoshi.

The auditor-general said rental for the two at Mandela Rhodes Place in central Cape Town was “not valid as it constitutes an additional benefit over and above the amounts agreed to in the employment contract”.

Makhanya said: “Accommodation was paid by Sahra over and above an allowance that was already part of Ramagoshi’s salary package… Policy was not contravened. In fact, a clerical error was discovered which was rectified.”

Staff allegations of inappropriate appointments and nepotism were also dismissed.

Makhanya said allegations that a “top manager employed a relative in a mid-career management position at Sahra… is false”.

“The two individuals share the same last name; this does not constitute a family relation. They are not related,” he said.

“During the interview process, the human resources manager disclosed to the selection panel that he and the (successful) applicant had worked together at a previous employer.”

Sahra’s former chief executive Peter Mokwena, who resigned earlier this month, was also not “frustrated and suffocated”, as staff claimed, said Makhanya.

“Mokwena disassociates himself with these comments and sentiments. He is completely satisfied with the manner with which Sahra dealt with his resignation.”

Staff earlier this week picketed outside Sahra’s office, alongside members from the National Education Health & Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu). They demanded an investigation into Sahra’s expenditure.

One staff member told Weekend Argus yesterday they were “intimidated” this week following last week’s report in this newspaper.

“The council called staff into a meeting. They said if staff are working against them their future inside and outside of Sahra might be comprised,” said the staff member.

“That is a direct threat against job security. Staff is feeling intimidated. The council knows staff is giving the media information.”

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About Yazeed Kamaldien

Self-employed journalist and photographer from South Africa.

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