Parliament is set to hold a closed sitting with International Relations and Cooperation Minister (Dirco) Naledi Pandor in order for her to share details about the suspension of her department’s director-general (DG), Kgabo Mahoai.
Pandor repeatedly told the legislature’s committee on international relations on Thursday that she could not divulge details of Mahoai’s suspension.
Earlier this month, Pandor placed Mahoai on precautionary suspension after the department spent R118 million for a piece of land in New York.
The only problem was the property did not exist.
News24 reported in October that a fact-finding mission to New York, carried out by MPs in December 2019, found that the piece of land meant to house South Africa’s diplomats did not exist.
In response to questions, Pandor did not divulge the reasons for Mahoai’s suspension, and did not answer whether it was in relation to the New York project.
“There has been no indication by me that the action taken thus far is implementation of the portfolio committee report. I am uncertain as to why, if I have not said something, the spokesperson would say something such as you indicated. I am fairly astounded and he will have to answer for himself,” she said.
Suspended Pandor’s spokesperson, Lunga Ngqengelele, denied that Mahoai was suspended due to the New York project. He said he merely confirmed that Mahoai was placed on precautionary suspension.
DA MP Mergan Chetty was not impressed with the response.
“There is no way that anybody can try and mislead us by thinking this happened out of the blue, out of the ordinary.
“The suspension of the DG, the New York report…all of this are intertwined. And it is out there in the public domain and everyone sees it as such. They are linked whether people like it or not,” he said.
Committee chairperson Tandi Mahambehlala questioned why Mahoai was suspended, but no action had been taken against the former DG Jerry Matjila. Matjila later became SA’s permanent representative to the United Nations in New York.
In response, Pandor said: “In view of the findings in the irregularities of accommodation in New York, it should be noted that ambassador Matjila was serving the last year of his term, which coincided with SA’s tenure in the security council.
“We felt the need for continuity, in managing the work of a complicated and difficult responsibility, needed to be part of our consideration.
“Matjila has completed his term as SA’s permanent representative and he is back in the country. Our investigation, in its entirety, into irregular expenditure is ongoing. All internal processes responding to the AG’s report are ongoing.”
In respect of the internal control deficiencies, Pandor said her department has reviewed its supply chain management processes and put in place controls to ensure no reoccurrence of incidents, like the New York matter.
“Management remains seized with this matter. It is my belief that we are not fully where we want to be, but we are working hard to improve in this regard. We have an action plan that is being implemented and working closely with the audit committee,” she said.
Pandor said a private firm, Openwater Investigations, was appointed to identify officials that could have contributed to the irregularities.
“Implementation is under consideration to afford the implicated officials an opportunity to make representations as to why they should not be subjected to disciplinary actions,” she said.