CEO’s suspension lifted despite damning forensic report findings

Johannesburg – The Johannesburg Development Agency’s CEO, Anthony Ngcezula, is back at work after the agency spent more than R1.2-million on a forensic investigation to probe allegations levelled against him.

Ngcezula faced serious allegations of abuse of power and flouting the agency’s procurement policies.

However, the agency has decided to abandon the process despite evidence confirming allegations against the CEO, who was only appointed in the role a year ago.

Sunday World can reveal that the agency appointed Khanyisa Forensic Audit in December last year after it received complaints from a whistleblower alleging that Ngcezula was abusing his powers for his personal benefit and interfering in procurement processes by directly approaching service providers and awarding them business.

Other allegations included that Ngcezula was also lining up his family members and allies to form part of the panel of contractors at the agency.

In its forensic investigation report dated December 4 2020, Khanyisa Forensic Audit found that there was prima-facie evidence that provided evidential weight to the allegations levelled against Ngcezula.

It recommended that he be charged and subjected to a disciplinary hearing.

This, the forensic auditors said in their report, was because it uncovered through several interviews and documents that indeed Ngcezula had directly through his office hired a caterer and venue without the involvement of supply chain management staff, through a deviation which led to the agency incurring irregular expense because no quotations were sought from other entities.

“It was established during consultative interviews that the request for the service was initiated from the office of the CEO and that the CEO had liaised directly with the service provider, Joburg City Theatres, to provide the services. Thus, the process adopted by the CEO was in breach of … procedures,” reads part of the report. In another case of alleged procurement irregularities, Ngcezula was also accused of procuring branded flags in his personal capacity, but later claimed a refund from the agency.

“During detailed consultations … it was established beyond doubt that the expense incurred and claimed in question was never facilitated through SCM [supply chain management] and that the CEO had unilaterally incurred an expense and chose to recover such expense through finance,” reads the report.

The investigators, the report shows, interviewed an agency’s driver who confirmed running personal errands for the CEO, such as driving his daughter and him to and from the airport, and that he had also been sent to renew the CEO’s licence disc for one of his cars.

The forensic company advised the agency’s board to institute a disciplinary hearing and that charges be levelled against the CEO for abuse of state resources and interfering with procurement processes, indicating that there was prima-facie evidence to support the allegations.

In his written representations explaining why he should not be suspended, Ngcezula confirmed that he had contacted the managing director of Joburg City Theatres enquiring about the venue, but he said his telephone call was not an instruction to a service provider. He said he does not believe that he contravened the supply chain management processes because the agency had used the service provider before.

“If there was a process error on my part, then it was an honest mistake,” said Ngcezula in his response.

About his abuse of state resources, Ngcezula defended his use of the company driver to transport him to and from the airport, arguing that he had intended for the company driver to use the company car to drive him to the airport.

He said he had initially called an Uber and Taxify after he was held up at the agency’s offices for a Microsoft Teams meeting, but said he realised that they were going to arrive in 15 to 20 minutes, which meant that he was going to miss his flight.

He said he decided to ask the driver to use his manual car, but said that could not work because he discovered that the driver was disabled and ended up settling for the company car. Ngcezula also contended that he did not need to follow the agency’s supply chain management processes to buy private items such as branded flags for his office. He said the reason the two flags he bought were now the agency’s assets was because the marketing and communications manager liked them and wanted to make small replicas of the flags for the other offices.

JDA

City of Joburg spokesperson Nthatisi Modingoane confirmed the investigations against Ngcezula, but said the board had resolved on March 2 that his suspension should be lifted and that he should report for work, fearing that his continued suspension might constitute unfair labour practices.

“Therefore, as the city of Johannesburg, we wish to allow the board adequate space to conclude this matter without undue pressure and interference,” said Modingoane.

“This is consistent with our resolve to deal decisively with allegations of ill-discipline at the workplace and to address any allegation regardless of who may be involved within the confines of the law. The city of Johannesburg will continue monitoring the process closely to its conclusion.”

The board resolutions show that it also resolved that Ngcezula’s charges should be reviewed by the social, ethics, human resources and remuneration committee in line with the agency’s policies. Ngcezula declined to comment when approached by Sunday World.

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