Minister’s Husband Denies Links To R30m Contract
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The husband of tourism minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane still appears to be actively involved in a company with a lucrative government tender — despite both he and the minister insisting he had resigned to avoid a conflict of interest.
Sizavox, which was founded by the minister’s husband, Sihle Ngubane, was paid R307,000 a month for an IT contract with the North West legislature until the contract expired last month.
Two years ago, after his wife was appointed to the cabinet, Ngubane officially resigned as a director of Sizavox to avoid possible conflicts of interest. At the time Kubayi-Ngubane had been deployed by the ANC to lead a task team to stabilise politics in North West.
In March last year, Kubayi-Ngubane told City Press newspaper that her husband had quit after consulting lawyers. “We looked at other people, including the president [Cyril Ramaphosa], where you have to pull out of companies. That was the advice we got.”
But documents obtained by the Sunday Times appear to show that Ngubane quit only on paper and remains involved in Sizavox’s operations.
A 20-page report updating legislature officials about the company’s work on the contract, submitted in January, carries Ngubane’s name as author.
An invoice for R307,000 sent to the legislature bears his name and contact details, and describes him as a sales representative for Sizavox.
On Friday, Kubayi-Ngubane again denied her husband was involved in Sizavox’s operations.
“He has resigned, and I have no doubt about that. I did not lie [about his resignation] to anyone or somebody,” she said.
“His resignation was because of legal advice we had taken. And it was informed by my work in cabinet and as a minister.
“Where I am sitting, I don’t know anything about him being involved at Sizavox. I have nothing in front of me that says otherwise. I stick to my point that he has resigned and he gave me proof of his resignation.”
Ngubane, who still uses the Sizavox e-mail account, also insisted his resignation was “real”. He said that after the Sunday Times sent him questions, he contacted his “former colleagues” who told him that “the name of the author of the reports that are submitted to the legislature for update as per the contract has never been changed since the first report Sizavox submitted, when I was still a director and a shareholder”.
He said he wrote the company’s first report to the legislature and the reports that followed were similar.
“In this way, I remained the author of the report even after my resignation … Having my name on the cover page is misleading in that it erroneously suggests that I am the current/recent author of the report. I can categorically say that I was not the author of the report you are referring to,” he said.
However, four senior North West officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told the Sunday Times that Ngubane attended two meetings in the legislature last year relating to the Sizavox contract.
“I can’t recall the dates, but I can certainly tell you that I attended one of the two meetings,” said one. “He was there. The meeting took place in committee room 2.”
This source said the legislature was paying the company through the same bank account it has used since 2015. “The legislature did not receive a notice of change in the company’s bank details.”
Another executive said: “In one of the meetings he had come to introduce other service providers to help Sizavox solve technical problems his people were struggling with. Both meetings took place in meeting room 2.”
A third official said he saw Ngubane at the legislature last year. “He attended a meeting which had been arranged to stabilise Oracle [software]. I was also part of that meeting.”
In response, Ngubane said those who claim to have seen him at meetings “should produce evidence”.
An IT technician employed at the legislature said: “We were never told anything about his resignation as a director. His resignation certificate should have been sent to us … But we talk to him from time to time. We interact with his staff on a regular basis, but when there are important issues, we copy him on e-mails. Myself and many colleagues are of the opinion that he is there.”
Sizavox was hired by the legislature in June 2015 on a one-year contract to provide support for the Oracle software used to run its human resources and financial operations.
Legislature spokesperson Namhla Luhabe said that when that contract ended, it was renewed monthly until May 2017, after which a three-year contract was signed. This agreement, under which Sizavox was paid R307,000 a month, expired at the end of last month.
Invoices the Sunday Times obtained show that by the end of March, the company had been paid more than R30m since 2015.
Explaining why at least one invoice still bore his name, Ngubane said Sizavox procedure was to keep the name of the person who initiated a contract on invoices, to “keep track” of who had secured the deal.
“The contract in question was secured by me and the invoices had always reflected my name, and subsequent to my resignation the company did not change the names.”
Two of the legislature officials said Sizavox, appointed to fix technical problems with the Oracle system, has been unable to do so. The latest provincial audit report by the auditor-general shows the problems remain, stating: “The Oracle system, at implementation, was not adequately configured to ensure that the system was utilised as the primary source for financial statements.”
One official said Sizavox, based in Midrand, was unable to maintain the Oracle system or offer proper IT support because it has no full-time presence in Mmabatho and no technicians deployed at the legislature.
“How do you offer IT support to the legislature in Mmabatho when you are sitting in Gauteng?” this official asked. “They don’t have technicians or even a storeroom here. Sometimes they come once a month. Sometimes they go for two months without showing up.”
We were never told anything about his resignation as a director. His resignation certificate should have been sent to us … But we talk to him from time to time. Myself and many colleagues are of the opinion that he is there.
A second official said the North West legislature had two of its own IT practitioners who are trained on Oracle. “They should be able to do everything that Sizavox is contracted to do.”
Mahomed Adam, the only director of Sizavox registered with the Companies and Intellectual Property Commission, said there was no need to have technicians in the legislature as everything was done remotely.
“We send technicians out to site if there are critical issues,” he said. He echoed Ngubane’s assertion that he had resigned, saying his name was still used on documents because it had been part of templates created when he was still at the company.
Oracle spokesperson Tash Badenhorst said all Oracle software service providers should be accredited partners with the company.
She declined to comment on Sizavox, saying only the company was “non-affiliated”.