Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba has moved on his predecessor Pravin Gordhan's people and removed three senior staffers at National Treasury from their positions.
Schalk Human, the respected acting chief procurement officer, has according to sources in Pretoria been "kicked out" of his corner office overlooking the Union Buildings and been replaced by Wilile Mathebula. Lindy Bodewig has been replaced as acting head of the controversial integrated financial management system (IFMS) project while the experienced Jayce Nair has been booted out as acting accountant-general.
Some of these officials are perceived as a threat to the new ministry, including by Gigaba's many advisers
Although Human is replaced by Mathebula, part of the policy unit at the office of the chief procurement officer, the move is being interpreted by staffers at Treasury's Madiba Street Building as part of an offensive to shift aside officials who have served under Gordhan and former ministers Nhlanhla Nene and Trevor Manuel. Some of these officials are perceived as a threat to the new ministry, including by Gigaba's many advisers, who have moved into the ministry's building at 40 Church Square.
Mayihlome Tshwete, Gigaba's spokesperson, has denied that anything sinister must be read into the moves and that the minister had no hand in it.
DA MP, David Maynier, told HuffPost SA: "It's a shocking decision and in the end the fact is that ultimately the Minister of Finance, Malusai Gigaba, is responsible for kicking out the acting Chief Procurement Officer, Schalk Human, who was one of the key soldiers in the battle against state capture at National Treasury."
Business Day's Carol Paton earlier this week reported that the relationship between the ministry and the bureaucracy at Treasury "is in tatters" and that even the prospect of a tax revenue shortfall of R50 billion in the next financial year has not galvanised Gigaba to revert to senior managers for advice.
Mhlakaza is described by insiders with knowledge of Treasury's inner-workings as 'a director and much too junior to handle a project as big as that'.
According to an internal memorandum signed by Director-General Dondo Mogajane, Nair is replaced by Zanele Mxunyelwa and Bodewig by Phila Mhlakaza, who is described by insiders with knowledge of Treasury's inner-workings as "a director and much too junior to handle a project as big as that".
The issues around the IFMS is being portrayed as evidence of widespread mismanagement and maladministration at Treasury. Gigaba earlier this week told Parliament's standing committee on public accounts (Scopa) that he takes "full responsibility" for the programme and that he will "ensure" problems are addressed. On Friday Cabinet said it welcomes Treasury's investigation into the IFMS and added those responsible for "deliberate wrongdoing" should be held accountable. The IFMS was an effort by Treasury, the department of public service and administration and the State Information and Technology Agency to integrate financial management systems. It has still not come off the ground and has cost the government millions of rands.
Human has been deeply involved in efforts by Treasury to curb state-owned enterprises' profligacy.
Officials with direct knowledge of the IFMS say there has never been any question of corruption and maladministration in the IFMS project and that fruitless and wasteful expenditure in the project, which dates to 2002, is not "out of the norm". "They really went after Lindy. Gigaba wants to be seen as 'Mr Clean'. She is the scapegoat," said one.
Human has been deeply involved in efforts by Treasury to curb state-owned enterprises' profligacy and has initiated regular contact sessions between Treasury and SOE's like the South African Airways and Eskom. He has acted in the position since the departure of Kenneth Brown in December 2016. The position was advertised earlier this year but the process of filling the vacancy was put on hold in May. There is no indication when a permanent appointment will be made.
Tshwete denies that Gigaba was involved. "It is the prerogative of the director-general to make decisions like this. It is a lie that is is a move on Pravin's people. Mogajane was his chief of staff, if Gigaba want to 'make a move' why not do anything to him? Nobody has been suspended. It's the new director-general's decision."
** This story has been updated to reflect comments by the minister's spokesperson.
SENT ON BEHALF OF THE DIRECTOR-GENERAL
Please note that the following acting appointments have been made as of the 01st September 2017.
· Mr Willie Mathebula – Acting Chief Procurement Officer
· Ms Zanele Mxunyelwa – Acting Accountant-General
· Mr Phila Mhlakaza – Acting Chief Director: IFMS
Congratulations to all these officials and I wish them well in meeting the objectives of the positions.
I would also like to take this opportunity to thank Mr Jayce Nair, Mr Schalk Human and Ms Lindy Bodewig for their unwavering commitment to these positions during their acting periods and I look forward to working with them in their appointed positions which they will revert to from tomorrow.
I trust that all National Treasury will support the new incumbents in their positions and ensure that we can continue to strive to make a better South Africa for all.