Joburg Property Company chairperson fired

By: Ofentse Seanego

Joburg Property Company board chairperson Moeketsi Rabodila has been fired for failing to take action after a Special Investigations Unit report into Covid-19 procurements.

Member of the Mayoral Committee for Economic Development Nkululeko Mbundu said the decision to remove Rabodila was the board’s inability to act on the report, handed over 10 months ago.

The report implicates senior executive managers of the entity in allegations ranging from serious misconduct to possible corruption and/ or the misuse of the ratepayers’ money.

“It further recommends corrective action against specific managers and persons related to the entity. It has been 10 months since the release of the SIU report, with the board not having completed the implementation of the report’s recommendations as directed to do so by Maycom. This includes the period up to and including this Monday, 24 January 2021 – when the Multi-Party Government agreed to remove the chairperson,” Mbundu said.

JPC chief executive officer Helen Botes and her chief financial officer Imraan Bhamjee were suspended in 2020 after the JPC board, then under the political control of the Patriotic Alliance, launched a forensic investigation into Covid-19 related contracts that were irregularly awarded.

The SIU report found that five senior employees of the Joburg Property Company (JPC), including Botes and Bhamjee, might be guilty of financial misconduct in awarding contracts to provide deep-cleaning and sanitisation services.

Within days of the hard lockdown taking effect at the end of March, JPC had spent nearly R19 million on cleaning and sanitising various municipally-owned properties in Johannesburg under the pretext of trying to combat the spread of Covid-19. However, the amounts charged by the contractors per square metre appear staggering.

Triple SL Tech was paid R80 200 to sanitise just 200m2 – a space no larger than a suburban house – in Jeppestown. This works out to R401 per square metre. Professional cleaning companies in the private sector indicated that prices for such services ranged from less than R2 per square metre to no more than R10. Botes allegedly negotiated prices higher than the original quotes the companies gave her in some cases.

Mizana Engineering, which received R5.5m for a few days’ work in March, allegedly had no prior experience or background in cleaning and no cleaning certifications. The same is true of the other three companies.

Another company that benefitted was KM Mashigo, a construction company. Whistle-blowers questioned how the Companies and Intellectual Property Commission could grant it an essential services certificate to work during level 5 lockdown since all other construction companies were ordered to cease operations entirely.

This company had received R3.5m by the end of March of 2020. KM Mashigo shares an address with Omphile Turnkey, which received R4.6m in the same period from JPC. It normally offers design, space planning, civil engineering, project management, branding, and architectural services by its own description. Triple SL Tech, which operates from a home office, received nearly R4.7m for cleaning services despite previously only having experience primarily in the security industry, offering services such as CCTV solutions.

Despite the damning findings against Botes and Bhamjee, the duo’s suspensions were lifted, and the ANC kicked the PA out of the coalition government at the behest of ANC Joburg regional chairperson Dada Morero whose wife is employed by JPC and is rumoured to be close to Botes.

Mbundu said Maycom’s expectation would be for the board to complete the process to either exonerate or find against the affected officials. Mbundu added that instead, the board accepted the findings of a third party they contracted to effect the SIU recommendations that such charges did not have a reasonable probability of success without fully engaging the SIU on the counter findings.

“The unwarranted delay in the finalisation is concerning and does not give the impression that there was necessary leadership capability to finalise the SIU report. The shareholder has therefore exercised its discretion to recall or remove a director if the performance of the director is unsatisfactory. As the City’s Political Head responsible for this entity, I find this inaction reprehensible. As a rate and taxpayer myself, it beggars belief why persons charged with the execution of specific fiduciary responsibilities and responsible for overseeing the mismanagement of billions in public funds would elect not to act when a legitimate law enforcement authority recommends as such,” he said.

Mbundu maintains that such inaction, in the face of growing mountains of evidence of misconduct, is why South Africans have increasingly lost faith in government and its elected leadership.

“Allegations of corruption, the misuse and wastage of public funds are a stain against our public institutions and they take away from government the ability to execute the kinds of programmes that would benefit us all, particularly in supporting the poorest amongst us. Inaction against prima facie evidence of apparently serious misdeeds cannot be allowed to go undealt with. We will not allow that any longer,” Mbundu added.

Rabodila has been replaced by Kuluwa Muthwa as Interim Chairperson, with immediate effect, until the entity’s next Annual General Meeting.

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