Reports today indicate that a man to whom Communications Minister Dina Pule is said to be romantically linked, Phosane Mngqibisa, drew millions in sponsorship fees for the recent ICT Indaba from the account of the event organiser.
I will be writing to the Public Protector, Advocate Thuli Madonsela, to request that the Minister's potential conflict of interest is investigated.
In short, if a man to whom the Minister is linked has misused state funds, the Minister herself could also stand to gain.
The sponsorship fees paid for the indaba by Vodacom, MTN and Telkom, were only paid after the companies were approached directly by Minister Pule's ministry.
Adv Madonsela's office needs to investigate whether the Minister knew about the involvement of Mr Mngqibisa in the event management of the indaba and, if so, whether this was raised by the Minister at any stage.
I will also be submitting a series of parliamentary questions to Minister Pule to determine:
The full details of how the event was financed- from the department’s allocations, to sponsorships, speaker costs and delegates fees.
The process used by the Communications department to appoint Carol Bouwer Designs, the event organiser for the ICT Indaba, whether competitive quotes were obtained as part of this process, and whether the quotes conformed to the PFMA. Company owner, Carol Bouwer, is said to be close to President Zuma, and the Minister must satisfy Parliament and the South African public that the process used to appoint her company was transparent.
The planned outcomes of the event.
The financial and administrative responsibility of the ICT Indaba Secretariat that will be established, and the potential for duplication of similar initiatives that are active in the ICT arena in sub-Saharan Africa.
Furthermore, I will be writing to the chairperson of the Communications Portfolio Committee to request that the Minister briefs the committee on the ICT Indaba's finances as soon as possible. The Minister's spokesperson has indicated that this report is expected in July.
The ICT INDABA, held in Cape Town in the first week of June, was poorly organised and an embarrassment to the Minister's department.
The registration of delegates on the first day, Monday June 4, was abandoned in an effort to get delegates into the auditorium for the poorly orchestrated opening ceremony.
There were no conference programmes or delegate packs and rucksacks available until the second day of the event.
My initial impression, judging from the Ministerial Declaration issue after the event, is that the ICT Indaba was another talk shop resulting in a structure funded using public money, which will achieve little.
The Public Protector must investigate the Minister's potential conflict of interest that arose due to this shambolic event, and assure the South African people that public money was not misused.