These officials suspended over ‘extraordinary’ grant to organizations

Henry

By Raymond Joseph, GroundUp

Four officials from the Department of Social Development in Gauteng were suspended at the end of last year following an investigation into grants paid to non-profit organisations. All four members were involved in the funding and award decisions.

The four suspended officials are Mbali Ndlovu, provincial director for sustainable livelihoods, Themba Msimanga, director of finance, Sello Mabaso, deputy director-general and Onkemetse Kabasia, also deputy director-general.

RNews previously reported that financial statements show that R30 million was allocated to the Beauty Hub Academy during the 2023-24 financial year. Daracorp, a shelf company, received R26 million in government subsidies during this financial year.

These two institutions also received millions of rand in grants during the previous financial years; Beauty Hub received R33.7 million and Daracorp R23.9 million – which amounts to a combined total of R113.7 million over two years.

The investigation is expected to be completed by the end of March. However, the department did not want to comment on the suspensions or the investigation.

Ndlovu, the most senior person under investigation, was provisionally suspended already in November. The suspension letter accuses her of fraudulent or irregular payments to non-profit organizations as well as inadequate screening of grant applications.

The letter also expresses concern that, if she is not suspended, “there is a risk that she may interfere with evidence and attempt to influence potential witnesses”.

“Based on the seniority of your position at the department, your presence at work, whether physical or virtual, pending the outcome of your disciplinary investigation, may affect the well-being, peace of mind and safety of employees or government property,” the letter states.

According to GroundUp, Mabaso returned to work this week, however, it is not clear why his suspension was lifted or whether he is still facing a disciplinary investigation.

According to a media statement at the time, Mabaso was appointed deputy director for the sustainable lifestyle directorate in 2022, responsible for “the development of cooperatives and departmental projects such as school uniforms, agricultural and dignity packages”.

However, according to a media statement by Refiloe Nt’sekhe, DA spokesperson on social development, there is an alleged failure to deliver the various programmes, including dignity packages.

Shortly after GroundUp revealed the department’s multi-million rand grants to Daracorp, the organization issued a statement in which they claimed that there had been “extensive oversight of Daracorp’s funding by the department’s monitoring and evaluation team. A clean audit by the Auditor General (AG) has apparently been obtained for the past two years as well as clean audits from Daracorp’s auditors for the past two years.”

It is highly unlikely that the AG, whose role is to review the spending of public money by national and provincial government departments and government entities and municipalities, has audited a non-profit organisation.

Daracorp says GroundUp “failed to mention that a significant part of the funding received was used to set up the production sites, to purchase agricultural equipment and that the beneficiaries received monthly support for meals and transport.”

“To date, 717 beneficiaries have participated and benefited from the program – spanning 37 sites with 31 cooperatives created in the process,” Daracorp said.