MPs grill Armscor board

Joel Avni

Joel Avni

MPs roasted Armscor's board and the company's chief executive when they appeared before Parliament's defence portfolio committee yesterday.

The committee had summoned the parastatal's board after a previous hearing had uncovered serious issues of corporate misgovernance at the state's arms acquisition company.

Yet despite board chairman Popo Molefe's attempt to sweep matters under the carpet, MPs were incensed to hear that once again the board had failed to provide documents, including chief executive Sipho Thomo's employment contract that the committee had requested last July.

Thomo was employed in 1999 in a permanent position with no performance agreement. When it transpired that he had eventually been persuaded to sign a new contract only last week, deputy defence minister Fezile Bhengu halted the proceedings.

Bhengu was chairman of the committee until he assumed his new position last September. He pointed out that by law Thomo's contract had to be approved by the defence department, which knew nothing about it.

"This is the first time we hear about this," he said, before asking the committee to delay reviewing Thomo's contract until it had been approved by his department.

Chairman Benjamin Ntuli called the hearing to deal with the "finalisation" of a grievance against Thomo filed by the company's former general manager of corporate affairs, Ntahli Borotho. She claimed the Armscor boss had sexually abused her at a company function, and also accused him of victimisation and favouritism.

The R1,2million-a-year executive was put on paid leave for more than a year while the complaints against her boss were probed. Thomo used the opportunity to close down her department and allocate her responsibilities around the company.

Though Borotho was vindicated by a special committee to investigate her complaint, the board ordered a string of investigations that exonerated Thomo.