MORE TROUBLE FOR NONGOGO: OUTA LAYS CRIMINAL CHARGES OVER INFLATED SSETA-TENDER
Our team’s renewed interest into the corruption and mismanagement at the SSETA, uncovered how Andile Nongogo – currently being investigated for his role in NSFAS tender irregularities – signed off on an rebranding campaign that cost taxpayers a staggering R37 million. Imagine paying an astounding R4 600 for a single branded T-shirt, an eye-watering R44 000 for a branded umbrella or an astonishing R668 200 for a mere 100 copies of the SSETA Annual Performance Plan. OUTA already laid criminal complaints against Nongogo over some of this.
When OUTA decided to take a fresh look at the corruption and mismanagement within the Services SETA, we not only uncovered irregularities surrounding the allocation of a R40 million tender to a virtually unknown company called Five Stars Communication and Projects, but also greatly inflated prices for products and services.
The tender entailed the development and production of SSETA's branding and marketing materials. According to the agreement, Ngwenya Baloyi is indicated as Five Star's director, while Andile Nongogo, the CEO of SSETA at that time, was the official responsible for overseeing the tender in accordance with the Service Level Agreement.
We not only uncovered procurement irregularities, but also noted that nothing was ordered from the service provider until two months before the contract (valid for 18 months) expired. During the last two months, SSETA received branded items and services to the amount of R36.9 million.
After studying the evidence, it is clear that – to enable the spending of the whole budget in only two months and before the end of the financial year – the service provider had to inflate the prices excessively and the accounting officer had to authorise payment.
OUTA's comprehensive investigation revealed that Nongogo did not raise any queries regarding the invoiced prices. Have a look at some of the payments he authorised:
• R93 579.60 for 20 branded T-shirts (i.e. an average of R4 679 per T-shirt)
• R264 340 for six branded umbrellas (i.e. an average of R44 057 per umbrella)
• R187 600 for video services for a one-day event
• R58 800 for 60 coasters (i.e. R980 per coaster)
• R36 300 to design a letterhead
• R36 300 to redesign a payment advice form where only three minor changes were made to the existing form
• R668 200 to print 100 copies of the SSETA Annual Performance Plan
• R58 400 for photography services at a one-day event
• R302 010 for the vinyl branding of a tender box
On June 18, 2023, OUTA escalated matters by filing a criminal complaint related to the tender box branding with the South African Police Service (SAPS). We also handed a comprehensive investigation report to the designated investigation officer. In our professional view, this report should lead to at least 28 more charges against Nongogo, Baloyi, and Ms. Duduzile Mwelase, the senior manager responsible for SSETA's branding, whose signatures appear on the documents in question.
OUTA’s case against SSETA and Five Star is not based on mere suspicions of criminality, but on hard evidence handed to OUTA by SSETA, following a successful PAIA request. The chain of evidence is available for criminal investigations.
We question how Nongogo, a registered chartered accountant and a seasoned public official with more than a decade’s experience, can be allowed to get away with such conduct as he should be well acquainted with the PFMA. His approval of these purchases was totally unacceptable, a waste of public money and gross negligence of his fiduciary duties. Therefore, OUTA reported Nongogo to the South African Institute for Chartered Accountants (SAICA), urging an investigation into his professional conduct.
In our view Nongogo shouldn't be entrusted with financial oversight of any institution funded by taxpayers. It is reasonable to expect government officials to spend our taxes wisely. Wasting it shows a disrespect for the taxpayer and casts serious doubt on the integrity of such an official. OUTA says Baloyi, who not only overcharged SSETA but sometimes even charged twice for the same product, as well as Mwelase, who should have followed SSETA’s procurement procedures, should both face the full might of the law.
We remain steadfast in our mission to expose individuals who squander public funds while knowingly sidestepping procurement and procedural norms.