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USAASA ICT manager suspended

In the space of four months, USAASA has suspended at least six employees in top-level positions, including its CEO and CFO.

The Universal Service and Access Agency (USAASA) suspended its senior manager of ICT last week.

The agency confirmed that Thato Matsepe, in charge of USAASA's internal IT infrastructure, has been suspended pending the conclusion of an internal investigation

“USAASA reserves comment subject to conclusion of the investigation. No further detail on the matter will be entertained.”

Caretakers

The agency's CEO, Phineas Moleele, and CFO, Andrew Hlubi, were also put on precautionary suspension in October, when the Department of Communications (DOC) ordered a forensic investigation into the agency for financial mismanagement worth millions of rands, after an internal audit report recommended further investigation into the agency's project management office.

A decision on Moleele will only be made pending the outcome of the investigation. In the meantime, minister of comunications Dina Pule has appointed two executive caretakers from the department to steer the organisation, as an interim measure. The executives are Sam Vilakazi, acting deputy director-general of finance, and Themba Phiri, acting deputy director-general of the Presidential National Commission on Information Society and Development.

“The purpose and viability of the entity must be reviewed. It hasn't really got off the ground and its top structure is in disarray. I'm not convinced that its establishment was anything other than an inefficient taxpayer-funded job creation project,” says Democratic Alliance shadow communications minister Marian Shinn.

“The DOC has set itself up to drive entrepreneurial development initiatives in the ICT sector. It should rather incentivise private ICT companies to do this work as part of their broad-based black economic empowerment obligations and CSI programmes. They have the knowledge, expertise and entrepreneurial drive to mentor start-ups in the field. Enterprise development in this dynamic sector should not be the responsibility of public servants in safe jobs, no matter how well-meaning they may be.”

Dodgy leadership

Pule also said a new board for USAASA will be appointed by March. “USAASA has been plagued by financial maladministration. Five senior managers of the agency were suspended pending the finalisation of the investigation.” However, the minister added that the agency is beginning to find its feet, with the business strategy and corporate governance systems having been put in place.

USAASA has a history of controversial leadership, with Moleele's predecessor, James Theledi, having been fired after being found guilty of sexually harassing a female colleague.

In 2008, then USAASA CFO Keith Keys resigned, following a disciplinary hearing, which found him guilty of financial mismanagement.


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