where is land bank boss?

Tebogo Monama

Tebogo Monama

Land Bank officials yesterday said that controversial acting chief executive Phil Mohlahlane had gone on voluntary leave amid counter claims that he had been suspended.

Sources in the bank were adamant that Mohlahlane had been suspended and that he may be fired very soon.

The controversy comes just two weeks before the bank appoints a new chief executive.

The bank's corporate development general manager Herman Moeketsi said: "The acting CEO is on leave. He is not suspended."

Mohlahlane made headlines late last year when it was discovered that he had two identity documents. He used a cancelled ID to buy property and open businesses but claims that he was unaware that the ID was cancelled.

Zola Phinda, whose company Expose is contracted by the bank to develop their turnaround strategy, said: "Phil is definitely not suspended. If he was I would be the first one to know. We can't comment on rumours," he said.

Land Affairs and Agriculture spokesman Godfrey Mdhuli said he could not comment on the matter because he was unaware of Mohlahlane's suspension.

In his short stint as acting chief executive Mohlahlane has allegedly appointed officials to top positions without following proper procedure.

He allegedly appointed Advocate Ntsietso Mofokeng two days after his own appointment without consulting the human resources department.

The Lesotho-born advocate joined the bank in 2003 and after her appointment, her salary was increased from R980000 to R1,5million a year. The bank also gave a turnaround strategy contract to Exposé, a company co-owned by Phinda without tender advertisements.

Moeketsi said: "The agency was contracted according to the "single sourcing" clause in the Land Bank's procurement policy which allows the organisation to contract an agency directly, under warranted conditions."

But the policy also states that single sourcing applies only to a skill that is not generally available and it should be an urgent matter. The bank can only appoint a company for a month and pay it R500000 while tender processes are put into place.

Moeketsi did not respond when asked why the bank did not adhere to this clause.

Between July and April Expose was allegedly paid at least R7million.

Phinda, said: "Please check all the companies that were outsourced before me, and how much they have been paid for the turnaround strategy.

"My appointment with the bank was procedural. When you are in a public entity, they can extend your duties. I was with the bank from April before they extended my contract. I have expertise in the agriculture area. You are free to check my work on the internet."

The bank's offices were moved from Visagie Street, Pretoria, last year after they were declared a fire hazard. A task team was set up to investigate and write a report on what to do with the old building.

The team was made up of Nandi Manentso, Kumendri Pillay, Mogale Gwangwa, Gerhard Hetcher, Darryl Rose and Nick Maredi. Before submitting their final report, the members of the team either resigned, were fired or suspended. Despite that, the bank has appointed a construction company to start refurbishing the Visagie Street offices.

This was also done without advertising for tenders.

"We cannot talk about people who have been suspended because we have hearings against them," said Expose's Eddie Bannerman.

The bank declined to respond to Sowetan's questions about the construction company, instead they sent a letter saying: "We are interested to ascertain the angle of approach to your story line so we can furnish you with all pertinent official responses from the Bank."

Even after receiving drafted questions, they did not respond.