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Rotten to the core

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A LOOTING spree totalling billions of rands at the South African Post Office has been uncovered.

A Sunday World investigation exclusively shows that the contents of an extensive forensic investigation of the post office paint a picture of a chaotic organisation ridden with corruption, incompetence and lack of accountability.

The forensic report has been handed over to the Department of Communications, which ordered the investigation earlier this year.

The report comes amid a labour stand-off between the post office and its employees that could result in another full-blown strike.

Sunday World has been following the forensic audit over the past six months. Its findings include:

During February 2007 and April 2008, 11 labour brokers were paid R1 219 343 766.95. According to post office reports, millions of rands have been paid to labour brokers without any contracts in place since 2002.

The organisation failed to disclose the payments in its financial statements.

The risk committee highlighted the fruitless and wasteful expenditure due to contracts being renewed without due process being followed.

It emerged that R551-million a year is being paid for 228 unmonitored services for which there are no contracts in place.

Of the 2312 properties allocated to the post office, 1763 are unaccounted for to the tune of about R1-billion.

This is because there is no property register in place and it has been found that the properties were disposed of irregularly.

The portfolio is headed by Karabo Rapoo, who is also head of risk and has been acting in the position for about two years. It is understood that she is not adequately qualified to hold either position.

Sunday World’s questions around her qualifications were ignored by the post office. In its response, the organisation claimed to have a turnaround plan that “is on track”.

Three internal audits found that a R30-million security contract was awarded to disqualified companies that submitted fraudulent BEE credentials.

From July 2008 to March this year, R111 783 743.53 in acting allowances were paid, and R25 436 278.07 of this money went to the managers.

It was found that some officials in “critical positions” have been in acting positions for more than 45 consecutive months.

1882 duplicate vendors were identified on the system. About 529 directors of those companies are government employees.

The forensic audit, which is the largest of its kind of a government entity, further reveals that there were contraventions of the Labour Relations Act when unilateral changes of employment terms and conditions were effected without consulting staff.

The investigation was conducted by Specialised Security Group (SSG).

The report attributes the chaos at the post office to the existence of a culture of “no-consequence” and the lack of clear policy guidelines.

The far-reaching investigation unearthed a litany of problems.

It also provides a blueprint on how the organisation can be saved.

SSG investigators clashed with the post office’s executives several times over two months while trying to do their work.

Sunday World can further reveal that there were fears that the investigation was intended to target individuals on the board.

This is clear from a letter written to President Jacob Zuma on April 8 by former post office board chairman George Mothema, in which he asks Zuma to investigate processes followed by the Communications Department when appointing SSG.

In his letter, Mothema said axed communications minister Dina Pule told the board that the investigation of corporate governance practices at the post office was to be conducted following complaints from a group of managers in the organisation.

Sunday World has seen a chain of e-mailed complaints by the managers to both Mothema and the post office’s chief executive, Chris Hlekane.

The complaints have not been dealt with.

“It appears to be an investigation into corporate governance practices during my term in office,” said Mothema.

In his response, SSG boss Warren Goldblatt said: “Due to obvious restrictions. we cannot divulge any further information around this project save to say that the project has been completed and a final report submitted to the director-general of the [Communications Department], our client in the matter.”

It is understood that SSG is still owed about R2.5-million by the post office for the investigation.

“We cannot comment on the matter of outstanding fees as this matter currently rests with our attorneys,” said Goldblatt.

In one of its recommendations, the SSG report states that “decisions from the office of the CEO need to be fast-tracked”.

Hlekane has been criticised before for dragging his feet in acting on critical matters.

The post office refused to respond to questions around Hlekane’s performance, saying it would be “irresponsible”.