The board of Mvula Trust has relieved the organisation’s acting CEO of his duties before appointing a permanent replacement, Alex Eliseev reports following Corruption Watch’s exposé on the respected NGO in late January. Read the original article here.
The move comes less than two weeks after an investigation which revealed allegations of fronting against the trust.
Corruption Watch first exposed the scandal after its own four-month probe, which was then shared with Eyewitness News and Daily Maverick for further investigation and media coverage.
A police investigation is under way into a R30-million government tender, a large part of which was channelled to a company owned by one of Mvula’s trustees.
Mvula Trust is advertising the position of CEO and is yet to interview potential candidates.
But Eyewitness News has learnt that acting CEO Silas Mbedzi was removed from his position on Monday, and asked to return to work as a senior board member.
The chairperson of the board and Deputy Water Affairs Minister Rejoice Mabudafhasi said there were many people who could watch over the position.
“There is nothing that is strange. There isn’t much work. The hard work and most of the work that needs to be done has already been done by him.”
She said a permanent CEO would be appointed soon and that projects were not being interrupted.
But Corruption Watch has questioned the move, asking how long it will take to find a permanent CEO and who will lead the trust at an operational level in the meantime.
Corruption Watch executive director David Lewis said now more than ever, Mvula needs a strong manager.
“It is an odd move that I think demands explanation.”
Before joining Mvula, Mbedzi was a chief executive at Mhlathuze water board – the third largest water utility in the country, situated in Richards Bay, KwaZulu-Natal – before being fired in November 2010 after calls were made of there being “irregularities in performing his duties”, the Sowetan reported at the time.
He was appointed as deputy chairperson of Mvula Trust at the end of 2010, according to Mvula Trust’s website.
Mvula maintains there was nothing illegal or corrupt in the awarding of the tender, while the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, which awarded the tender, is yet to comment on the allegations.
Meanwhile, it appears Mbedzi plans to challenge the decision, while it remains unclear whether the move to remove him was valid.
Alleged conflict in the awarding of the tender
In 2011, government announced a tender for a portion of its Community Work Programme (CWP).
The CWP required a “lead agent” to oversee the channelling of hundreds of millions of rands (Mvula Trust says more than R-billion) to communities in several provinces.
The concept was that people would be hired to work two or three days a week on whatever projects most benefited their communities.
Their wages were covered by government and paid by whatever organisation won the tender through its subcontractors on the ground.
Mvula was considered to handle the tender because only a non-profitable organisation could apply.
There are conflicting accounts of how the trust became involved, but what is known is that another company, Ubuntu Sima, was aware of the tender and agreed to be a partner.
Ubuntu Sima was a for-profit company and one of its directors, Gabsie Mathenjwa, was and still is a trustee of Mvula Trust.