Cape Town - The former leader of the Special Investigations Unit's probe into public housing corruption allegedly buried charges against the National Home Builders' Registration Council (NHBRC) before taking a cushy job with it, Human Settlements Minister Tokyo Sexwale
said on Tuesday.
An outraged Sexwale said the NHBRC offered Vanessa Somiah a salary of more than R1m a year - nearly double her pay at the SIU - to quit the corruption busting unit, in a move he described as "bribery".
Sexwale said Somiah had since been suspended from the NHBRC post, which was created without the requisite ministerial approval.
Somiah oversaw the SIU's four-year-old probe into corruption in public housing and was personally tasked with investigating corruption allegations within the NHBRC at the request of the ministry.
At the same time, she was secretly offered or applied for a senior post in the NHBRC, allegedly in collusion with its CEO Sipho Mashinini
, who was one of the people under investigation, Sexwale said.
"It came to light that, at the same time as she was in the process of working on the report for the department of human settlements, she was ostensibly negotiating with, and subsequently became employed by the NHBRC at almost twice the salary she was earning at the SIU.
"Within weeks of her employment the NHBRC while conducting some kind of disciplinary action against its employees, listed Ms Vanessa Somiah as a witness against some of them who were whistleblowers while she was at the SIU.
"It is quite clear to any thinking person what the objectives of all these machinations were about.
"I regard all this as not only devious but also shocking, to realise how some of those who are supposed to be in authority in our campaign against corruption can undertake such reprehensible measures to undermine this fight," Sexwale said.Half measures
He said Mashinini had been given a final written warning and would be the subject of further investigations.
"The council has been further advised that investigations around Mr Mashinini ought not to be conducted while he is in office."
Sexwale said he was in favour of all possible steps being taken against those involved in covering up corruption at the NHBRC, including criminal charges.
"I don't want half measures ... I really don't take prisoners on this kind of thing."
He said the SIU would repeat the investigation into allegations of corruption at the NHBRC, as the report he had received was clearly "a whitewash" riddled with discrepancies that warranted proper analysis.
SIU head Willie Hofmeyr
said this should take two to three months.
Hofmeyr said the affair was deeply unpleasant for the SIU and had been uncovered thanks to information received from the National Education Health and Allied Workers' Union (Nehawu).
"We have received very good co-operation from the union in this whole investigation and I do want to thank them for that," he said.
Hofmeyr said Nehawu members blew the whistle before the Easter weekend, complaining that they had given Somiah information against Mashinini which she had failed to properly investigate.
Somiah left the SIU at the end of April, but failed to disclose that she was taking a job with NHBRC and had a conflict of interest.
"By that stage she had resigned, but she did not tell us who her new employer was," he said.
"The SIU is appalled by these allegations that reflect very negatively on the important work that we are tasked to do.
"We would like to make it clear that this kind of behaviour, if it is proven to be correct, will not be tolerated under any circumstances and that we will pursue individuals implicated in such behaviour harshly and vigorously."Misconduct
Hofmeyr said that, at this stage, he could not say how much money was involved in the alleged corruption at the NHBRC or how many people were implicated.
The NHBRC's previous chairperson, who resigned last year, is also under investigation.
The NHBRC was established under the Housing Consumer Protection Measures Act, mainly to protect the interest of housing consumers and to regulate the home building industry.
The SIU's overall investigation into public housing corruption has so far led to the recovery of R55m. Sources said the SIU was confident that the probe had not been compromised by Somiah's alleged misconduct.