Hawks probing PetroSA staffers for fraud, corruption | Fin24
 
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Hawks probing PetroSA staffers for fraud, corruption

Jun 01 2018 07:34
Khulekani Magubane

PetroSA is at the centre of a fresh storm, as senior staffers have been accused of fraud and corruption in a case now being investigated by the Directorate for Priority Criminal Investigations (the Hawks).

Fin24 has been reliably informed that a complaint of fraud and corruption was laid against individuals serving at PetroSA.

The Hawks confirmed the investigation. 

According to one source who spoke to Fin24 on condition of anonymity, a complaint was lodged in March against individuals at PetroSA at Kwanonqaba Police Station in Mosselbay by "a community leader".

The source said the case unveiled "gross misconduct and corruption amounting to billions of procurement activities which include nepotism on employment [and] bribery".

"It was also alleged that PetroSA cheated Chemical Industries Education and Training Authority Sector Education and Training Authority on their training centre in creation of ghost learners’ intake to access grants," the source said.

This follows the company making a R1.4bn net loss in the 2016/17 financial year to the end of March.

Shortly thereafter PetroSA's offshore exploration rights were extended to 2024 by the Department of Environmental Affairs.

Energy Minister Radebe has promised a decisive but careful intervention into the entity's losses.

In April, Fin24 reported that, according to sources, PetroSA was on the cusp of appointing once-suspended officials back at the utility and was even resorting to creating positions which did not exist on the company’s organogram.

Hawks confirm investigation 

Western Cape Hawks spokesperson Captain Philani Nkwalase confirmed that the staff members concerned were being investigated for fraud and corruption. He said he could not disclose their identities until the matter was concluded, referred to the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) and the accused appear in court to face charges.

He told Fin24 the Hawks were handling the matter, adding that the investigation was still in its initial stages.

No arrests would be made if the investigation was not finalised, he added.

"Upon finalisation of our investigation, we will approach the NPA for a decision on prosecution. Should the NPA decide to prosecute and draw up the charges against the suspects we will then effect the arrest to secure court appearance," said Nkwalase.

A separate source, who is regularly in contact with PetroSA staff (and unrelated to the person who alerted Fin24 to the Hawks complaint) said no clear leadership decisions had been taken at PetroSA.

This source said the board’s leadership failures meant critical positions intended to facilitate the effective functioning of PetroSA were not being advertised or filled.

"This nonchalant attitude is careless, in [the] utmost bad taste, and therefore compromising and threatening the continued existence of the PetroSA – notwithstanding the R1.4bn loss in the past financial year."

The source added that the entire executive team was in acting roles, but no effort was being made to find permanent replacements. Three different positions were advertised, but no competency assessments were done.

"The appointments at this senior level may be deemed irregular and can be contested in any court. These positions did not exist on any structure, and not even the board has the authority to fill same, without the explicit approval of the responsible minister," the source said.

PetroSA replies 

PetroSA spokesperson Tumoetsile Mogamisi confirmed to Fin24 that PetroSA was made aware of a case reported to the police in KwaNonqaba by a member of the community.

He said as soon as the company knew, PetroSA’s forensic department initiated an investigation into the allegation of solicitation of bribes in exchange for jobs by a PetroSA fixed-term contractor.

"PetroSA was informed by the complainant that witnesses in this matter were advised by the police investigator to be discreet about the case and that they will only act according to the directive of the police.

"As a result, PetroSA could not continue with its investigation.

"PetroSA does not tolerate any form of corruption by its employees and contractors and therefore will cooperate fully with the police investigation into these allegations," Mogamisi said.

Regarding allegations that PetroSA board members and executives were seeking to recycle positions, making the entity ineffectual, Mogamisi said it was not true that nothing was being done to advertise vacant executive positions. 

"PetroSA currently has vacant positions at the executive level, and suitably qualified and competent individuals have been appointed to act in those positions, in accordance with normal business practice, to ensure smooth continuity of our operations," said Mogamisi.

He said seven executive positions were advertised internally and externally. There was an overwhelming interest from both internal and external candidates and the recruitment processes were in progress, with some at a very advanced stage, he said.

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petrosa  |  state owned enterprises  |  corruption
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