After Posbank’s chairman and some of its board members resigned earlier this week due to the “hostility” with which Mondli Gungubele, minister of communications, apparently dealt with them, the minister has now mailed the remaining member of the board.
On Thursday, Gungubele gave the rest of the council the go-ahead on “damning allegations” made about service providers illegally contracted by Posbank.
These service providers are believed to have been paid around R140 million without valid contracts or that proper procurement processes were followed.
This came to light in a report by KPMG after the company launched a forensic investigation into Posbank’s finances.
“The report recommended that the shareholders of Posbank should take action against the board – a recommendation that was supported by a senior advocate’s legal opinion,” says Gungubele.
The minister and the council were due to meet at Posbank’s annual general meeting on Thursday where they would hear their fate. However, the council resigned two days before and the minister removed the remaining council member at the general meeting.
Council says he was ‘undermined and disrespected’
The councilors who have already resigned stated in their letter of resignation that they tried to meet with Gungubele on several occasions about the allegations made against them, but without success.
“Until today, the council has not had any meaningful discussions with the minister about the matter,” the letter says.
“We (the council) believe that if the minister had a genuine interest in assisting the council to resolve the issues for the benefit of Posbank, the minister would have offered an opportunity for proper liaison with the council, during which the minister also could come up with a solution.
“All the challenges the council faced were shared with the minister without any input from his side.”
Gungubele says, however, that even before the forensic investigation’s findings, he contacted the council regarding management matters “that would hinder Posbank’s ability to be a development state bank”.
The minister did not want to elaborate further on the content of the council’s resignation letter, because he says it is “null and void” and only tries to distract from his commitment to make Posbank “a quality state bank that will ensure that the multitude have access to bank accounts and financial services have”.
Among other things, the council argued in their letter that they were regularly “undermined and disrespected” by Gungubele and were subject to “external interference, undue pressure and influence” as well as “bad and negative treatment”.
Gungubele said during a press conference on Thursday that he did not have a personal dispute with the council, but rather that he was “intolerant (of) bad management”.
“The removal from the board would have happened regardless of my relationship with the board members,” he said.
Posbank has already put out feelers for a new board and chairman. Gungubele has meanwhile appointed Khayalethu Ngema as the administrator of Posbank, pending the appointment of the new board.
‘Minister wants to save prestige’
Various political parties have expressed their displeasure at the situation at Posbank, and say Gungubele is now scrambling to mend his own reputation.
“This is a common strategy implemented by ministers who have failed,” says Natasha Mazzone, the DA’s spokesperson for communications and technology.
The DA now demands that the portfolio committee on communication and technology request the minister to appear before it and provide a detailed action plan on what will be done to curb the crisis.
“If the minister has nothing to hide, he will appear before the committee and not hesitate to answer questions about the situation,” says Mazzone.
“If the minister refuses to appear and answer questions, we will not hesitate to request an investigation into the matter.”
The party Rise Mzanzi is rather concerned about the impact the resignations will have on Sassa beneficiaries who depend on Posbank to receive their monthly allowance.
“Following the terrible impact on Sassa beneficiaries who were unable to withdraw their grants last week, the leadership vacuum at Posbank will be more detrimental to families who rely on social grant to put food on the table,” says Esther Padi, national coordinator of Rise Mzanzi.
“The government and Sassa must make an urgent assessment of the true condition of Posbank and whether it can carry out this life-saving task at all. The country cannot afford for Sassa beneficiaries to go home empty-handed again.”
Gungubele said on Thursday that a state bank like Posbank will always be needed as long as there are people who cannot afford to do business with commercial banks.