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Corruption allegations hit Palapye Community Trust

PALAPYE: A major community development trust in Palapye has been rocked by allegations of corruption, mismanagement, embezzlement and theft of assets, including over P1 million from its bank account and land.

The claims have set members of the Palapye community on a collision course with the former management and Board of the Palapye Development Advisory Trust (PDAT).

In January this year, 27-year-old Thebe Johannes and 200 other protesters twice laid siege to the office of the Palapye deputy district commissioner, Odiseng Moruti, forcing him to nullify the election of Board members for a new trust that would have replaced the PDAT.

They said they distrusted those seeking Board positions and alleged corruption in the drawing up of the short list for the new supervisory structure.

They have also raised questions about the alleged disappearance of assets, including P1.4 million which they say went missing from the trust’s account at First National Bank and three parcels of land.

Three former Board members of the trust are alleged to have drawn P186, 000 from the trust’s call account and other sources and deposited the funds in their personal accounts.

Other allegations against the PDAT’s former leaders are that:

  • Its former CEO, David Jibajiba, appointed staff members based on their relationship with top management.
  • Jibajiba led a lavish lifestyle beyond his means.
  • The trust awarded various works to contractors without going through tendering.  The villagers say that a handpicked contractor was awarded a contract worth P2.7 million.

Jibajiba and the former chairperson of the Board, Comfort Molosiwa, vehemently rejected the allegations of corruption and nepotism.

Johannes and his group claimed that after conducting investigations over a three-year period, they have “sufficient proof that people were lining their pockets with the trust’s funds instead of developing Palapye”.

PDAT documents passed to Mmegi indicate that a Chinese company, Giant Build Construction, was handpicked to carry out two major projects at the Jacinth shopping mall owned by the trust in Palapye involving the improvements to the service road and parking lot. Additional project costs included P186, 175 for the “regularisation” of the existing building and payment of the project manager and clerk of works.

The documents also show that the company was selected on the basis that the trust Board and management were “impressed” by the good work it had done at the rival Engen Mall.

At the time of the seemingly hurried project, Jacinth mall suffered from the migration of tenants to new malls that were cropping up in Palapye.

Johannes further alleged that the chairpersons of the trust Board tended to increaseBoard members’ sitting allowances when it suited them.

He said he asked Jibajiba to explain why the trust chose to award the tender to a Chinese company without going out to tender, and was disappointed not to receive a satisfactory answer.

It was at that point that he decided to mobilise villagers to hold the trust to account. His worry was that the absence of open and competitive tendering was likely to breed corruption and other ills.

Palapye chief Michael Maforaga, an ex-officio member of the trust’s board, told Mmegi that he had heard through the grapevine that people were suspicious of Jibajiba’s “lavish lifestyle”.

However, Maforaga added that Jibajiba’s wife bought a Toyota Fortuner after her retirement and he (Jibajiba) bought his other car with his severance pay when his contract expired last year.

Palapye MP Onneetse Ramogapi, who is also an ex-officio member of the Board, conceded that when he addressed kgotla meetings in his constituency before the current Parliamentary session, the villagers had raised allegations of corruption at the community trust.

 According to Ramogapi, the villagers said they were disturbed that over the years the Board had not been sufficiently accountable.

He said he was aware of the allegations of nepotism and favouritism at the trust.

A former trust employee, who asked not to be named, told Mmegi that at one point he had heard Jibajiba tell the trust’s accountant and a secretary that he wanted to employ Koketso Malala and that the duo had responded that there was no necessity for the appointment.

Jibajiba allegedly wanted Malala to take minutes at meetings of the trust and Jacinth Holdings, its investment arm.  Malala’s employment reportedly brought the number of secretaries to three.

PDAT documents show that Koketso Malala was the daughter of Board member Khuduego Malala when she was employed as a secretary.

They also show that Khuduego’s son, Tefo Malala, was awarded a contract to refurbish the Jacinth office.

Ramogapi agreed that in the absence of a procurement policy that provides for transparency and proper governance, it was possible for friends of management to benefit from the trust.

He also said he had heard allegations that P1.4-million was missing from trust ‘s coffers.

In an e-mailed response, Molosiwa and Jibajiba said that Khuduego Malala had declared his interest and recused himself when his daughter was interviewed for the job.

They said Koketso was not employed as a secretary when her father was an active Board member, but rather as an assistant administration officer/receptionist, as per a PDAT executive committee resolution passed on January 26, 2016.

They also said that she was ranked second in the interviews for the secretary’s post and was not immediately offered the job, as it was offered to the first-ranked candidate, Emma Ncube.

Their statement continued: “The allegation of employment of a third secretary is not true and baseless.

“After the employment of Emma Ncube, a position of accounts clerk fell vacant and Ncube was moved to that position. [Because of] her number two in ranking during the interview, Koketso Malala was employed to fill the secretary vacancy.”

However, Mmegi’s investigations

revealed that at one point, the trust’s three secretaries were Malala, Ncube and Dorothy Kgomo, whose duties included typing minutes, managing petty cash and writing letters as instructed by the chief executive. They were all at the C4 scale, but on different notches.

Jibajiba and Molosiwa said that PDAT used “the standard recruitment and procurement procedures of advertising and interviewing/evaluation, using a set of criteria as stipulated in the advert.”  However, Mmegi understands that there are no formal recruitment and procurement policies at the trust.

The two men insisted that an advert was published for quotations for the refurbishment of the current Jacinth office.

Tefo Malala of Doncaster Enterprises was amongst those who had submitted quotations, together with namely Morewa Investments, Cliff Taylors Holdings and Lesaso Investments. “Once again his father, who was a Board member at that material time, recused himself.  The board awarded Doncaster Enterprises on merit on 31st July 2015,” Jibajiba and Molosiwa said.

The trust’s Board and management have conceded that Giant Build Construction was awarded a P2.7-million tender to refurbish the Jacinth Mall and associated roads and parking infrastructure without passing through an open tender procedure.

“The directors of Jacinth Holdings approached Stanbic Bank for a loan for the refurbishment of the mall and associated works,” they said. “A loan for around P6.2-million was approved and Stanbic Bank imposed a condition that this project should be executed within three months, so that they [could] value the mall and register a new mortgage bond to secure the loan.”

The trust said that a tender process would have been “cumbersome” as it would have taken a month to advertise, a month to evaluate and award the tender, and a further month for mobilisation.” By the time the project took off, the trust claimed the stipulated time frame would have elapsed, with the consequent loss of funding.

Under this “emergency” situation, the trust said, “selective tendering is the best practice as experienced in government projects”.

“Therefore, Jacinth Holdings was within its right as a private company or proprietary limited to have executed the award in this manner given the circumstances.” Trust records seen by Mmegi indicate that previously, the trust Board, under the chairpersonship of Dithapelo Tshotego wrote to three former Board members (names withheld) accusing them of embezzling trust funds.

The ex-Board members were asked to account for P182, 681 credited to their accounts at different times without authority.

They did not do so, and had also failed to account for other trust assets.  According to trust records seen by Mmegi, when the Ministry of Education audited the trust’s assets as part of the handover process, it was discovered that three plots were missing from the inventory list and could not be accounted for by the previous board. They comprised a plot formerly belonging to a Mr. Krug, which was transferred to what was then called the Palapye Development Trust in 1977; a PDT plot at Lerala; and a PDT plot near ZCC. In addition, a board member (name withheld) had sold doors and window frames valued at P66 375 that belonged to the trust to a colleague on February 18 2011, and payment was still outstanding.

A legal document in Mmegi’s possession shows that the board instructed law firm Dow and Associates to press former board members to repay funds they had allegedly embezzled without success. 

Other allegations levelled against former Board members were four cases of taking out loans and or giving loans from the trust without the Board’s approval; three cases of failing to adhere to the trust’s financial policies and procedures; five cases of gross negligence; and one case of theft.

When an audit was done on Jacinth Holdings’ books for the 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014 financial years, it was discovered that there was a recurring opening balance of P1.4-million, which resulted in the audited statements being qualified.  The PDAT’s records state: “In 2018 the PDAT board took a resolution to investigate the whereabouts of this amount. First National Bank, who were the account holders, were approached for bank statements from 2010.”

The bank statements showed that the Citizen Entrepreneur Mortgage Assistance Equity Fund closed the account in 2012 after the P1.4-million was withdrawn. “[This] meant it was drawn by its owners.” Jibajiba and Molosiwa said it was untrue that Palapye villagers do not benefit from employment by the trust.

“The CEO has habitually resided in Palapye for the last 18 years. He worked for the Palapye Administrative Authority as chief accountant,” they said.  The driver has been a habitual resident of Palapye since 1989. The cleaner is also a resident of Palapye. 

Molosiwa flatly denied allegations that he unilaterally increased the sitting allowance for board members.

He said that in 2019 the Trust received a message from the office of the Permanent Secretary to the President saying that sitting allowance for civil servants sitting on the boards of non-statutory bodies such as the PDAT is P850 for ordinary members and P1 103 for chairpersons.

Molosiwa said that the bone of contention, which led to the cancellation of the board election “was non-compliance with the Deed of Trust [for the successor trust]“.

This related to “the requirement of advertising the board membership call for application in a registered paper, as well as adhering to a clause which stipulates that those nominated should be habitual residents of Palapye for three consecutive years.”




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