Publication: Mail and Guardian Issued: Date: 2004-06-11 Reporter: Rapule Tabane

NDA Staff Appeal to Skweyiya



Mail and Guardian, National




Rapule Tabane

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Staff at the troubled National Development Agency (NDA) have written a new letter of protest to its board to complain about ongoing chaos at the organisation.

Minister of Social Development Zola Skweyiya instituted a probe eight months ago into mismanagement, fraud and corruption in the agency. The investigation was completed recently and a recommendation made that disciplinary action be taken against NDA CEO Delani Mthembu and chief operations officer Pule Zwane.

The Department of Social Development has said it is considering bringing in the Scorpions to pursue the possibility of criminal charges.

But unhappiness persists. Concerned staff met last week to raise problems such as late payments to projects, late payment of salaries and the fact that phones have been cut off because the supplier has not been paid.

They also complained that they only learned of major developments in the organisation from newspapers.

NDA spokesperson Simphiwe Ndzingani acknowledged there was a meeting at which staff voiced their grievances, but said it was “news” to him that they had sent a letter to the board.

Concern has been expressed that the organisation seems unable to extricate itself from controversy, and there are questions about whether it is able to execute its duties.

Among the measures suggested to deal with the trouble is the appointment of a new board to oversee the work of the NDA. Skweyiya also seconded three senior people from his department to run the agency’s operations while investigations continued.

Skweyiya’s spokesperson, Mbulelo Musi, said the appointment of the board had ensured that the agency streamlined its priorities, rationalised human resources and was able to focus on poverty alleviation projects. Since October the NDA has supported 125 projects worth R98-million.

He said the late payment of staff salaries was being investigated. “There is an improvement ... but we will have to fix the car while it is moving.”

Zwane and Mthembu are to appear before a disciplinary tribunal next week. The charges against Mthembu relate to his interest in projects that received finance from the NDA. The Mail & Guardian first reported on these allegations in February 2002. Zwane and Mthembu denied the charges.

Zwane was charged with irregularities relating to procedures followed in hiring certain staff members. He was also charged with having cooperated with the CEO in giving bonuses amounting to R800 000 to staff without proper authorisation.

Similar allegations of conflict of interest were previously made against some former board members but nothing was proved.

The question has been posed: With so many interlinked personal and political agendas, can the agency really focus on its work?

The NDA staffers’ letter of grievance is a replay of an earlier incident that led to the institution of the forensic probe.

Since it began operating in April 2000 the NDA has come under repeated fire for its failure to carry out its core objective of distributing funds to NGOs that focus on development and poverty eradication.

With acknowledgements to Rapule Tabane and the City Press.