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Communications agency probed for graft

Jul 16 2013 10:27 Sapa

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Joiahnnesburg - Independent investigators are looking into corruption and maladministration allegations at the Universal Service and Access Agency of SA (USAASA), the communications ministry said on Monday.

"We take allegations about possible abuse of funds allocated by parliament very seriously and we have consulted with the board," Communications Deputy Minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams said in a statement.

"We are working tirelessly to restore the public's faith in government institutions that are established to serve the citizens."

She said investigators had been briefed and were expected to produce their report in four weeks.

"The ministry won't be commenting further on this matter until after the conclusion of the investigation," she said.

USAASA focuses on providing technological access to "under-serviced" areas of the country. It wants every South African to have universal access to broadband by 2020.

In a press statement on the USAASA website, dated June 19, the agency's board of directors said it had resolved to act on allegations of corruption and maladministration contained in a United Democratic Movement open letter to President Jacob Zuma.

It decided to "instruct the independent audit and risk committee to institute an independent investigation into all allegations contained in the letter".

The board also placed two individuals on suspension "as a precautionary measure".

In the letter, UDM leader Bantu Holomisa asked Zuma's office to intervene.

He claimed that the then Communications Minister Dina Pule and other senior department officials had approved a multi-million rand application by Cell C for the roll-out of broadband infrastructure in the eMalahleni local municipality.

Holomisa alleged the application was approved despite not being subjected to the normal adjudication process as required by Electronic Communications Act.

He said that had it not been for the refusal of USAASA executive Mmatlou Morudu to implement the project, the money would have been released.

Holomisa called for the suspension of the agency's senior management and Pule, who was replaced last week by Yunus Carrim.

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