Corruption Watch welcomes the decision by the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) to approach the Pretoria High Court to set aside the appointment of Zami Nkosi, CEO of the parastatal Universal Service Access Agency of South Africa (Usaasa).
According to the Sunday Independent, the SIU is also asking the court to force the Usaasa board to appoint one of the three candidates who were originally shortlisted for the post, or to re-run the recruitment process from the beginning.
“Corruption Watch has, since 2013, been approached by a number of whistle-blowers alerting us to irregularity in Nkosi’s appointment. We have tried to access a forensic report and further information from the department to get to the bottom of the allegations. We are delighted that the court will now make a determination on the matter. The SIU’s approach to the court already vindicates courageous whistle-blowers who have spoken up,” said Nicola Whittaker, head of legal and investigations at Corruption Watch.
Corruption Watch was first alerted to Nkosi’s controversial appointment last year. We then conducted a joint investigation with the Sunday Times, during which we discovered an internal Department of Communications document which appeared to summarise the findings of a forensic report by Gobodo into allegations of impropriety at Usaasa. The document recommended Nkosi’s appointment be terminated because his scoring in the interview process was not up to scratch, amongst other things.
During our investigation, questions also surfaced about the relationship between Nkosi and Usaasa chairperson Phumla Radebe, both of whom were formerly at Pikitup. Nkosi resigned from the state-owned waste utility amid allegations of conflict of interest.
In January 2014, Corruption Watch wrote to then minister of communications Yunus Carrim, asking him what steps were being taken to deal with the allegations around Nkosi. At the same time we also formally requested a copy of the Gobodo report under the Promotion of Access to Information Act.
In May 2014, the Department of Communications replied to us in writing, saying that the Gobodo report was in fact a draft report that still needed input from parties involved, and thus could not provide a legal basis for any action to be taken. The department also informed us that it had requested President Jacob Zuma to issue a proclamation to the SIU to allow it to undertake a forensic investigation – he did this in March 2014.
Now, just months after starting its investigation, the SIU, in a bold move, has asked the Pretoria High Court to intervene in the matter. The case comes before the bench in August 2014. According to reports in the press, the SIU, which completed its investigation on 22 May 2014, considered whether Usaasa would act to remove Nkosi, before approaching the court to intervene.
Corruption Watch eagerly awaits the court’s finding.