STD BANK EMPLOYEE AWARDED THREE TENDERS BY AG’S OFFICE

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STD BANK EMPLOYEE AWARDED THREE TENDERS BY AG’S OFFICE
STD BANK EMPLOYEE AWARDED THREE TENDERS BY AG’S OFFICE

Africa-Press – Eswatini. The Standard Bank Eswatini employee, Delisa Malinga – who is accused of unlawfully receiving E2.8 million from Funduzi Forensic Services – is the sole director at Claricent Consulting Services, a company which had initially contested for the tender to probe the drugs shortage in the health sector.

The tender, which was eventually awarded to Funduzi, is now subject of interest to the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC), which has given the auditor general seven days to present documents detailing its tendering process.

The Sunday Observer can now reveal that Malinga, who ran to court this past week to stop a disciplinary hearing instituted against him by his employer, can be drawn to the controversy surrounding the drugs probe in that he was linked to Funduzi from the onset.

Funduzi scored an average score of 90.5, while Claricent got 85.2, and therefore Funduzi won the tender. Claricent, however, was to get a sweet consolation two weeks later, when they were awarded tender no. 144 of 2022/2023 for the forensic audit engagement into alleged irregularities relating to the rehabilitation of the Small Enterprises Development Company (SEDCO) estates.

In a letter dated December 14, 2022, Secretary of the Tender Board Reginah Masilela informed the Auditor General that his request for the tender had been approved and that the approved tender whose financial offer would be opened was Clariscent Consulting Services.

The same company was also awarded tender no. 145 of 2022/23 for a forensic audit engagement into alleged irregularities relating to the acquisition of an embassy house at an exorbitant price and the rehabilitation of embassy houses in South Africa.

The very company was also awarded tender no. 143 of 2022/23 for a forensic audit engagement into alleged irregularities relating to the construction of the International Convention Centre and Five Star Hotel (ICC-FISH).

Writing to seek approval from the Tender Board to award the contract to Claricent at a contract price of about E1.8 million, Matsebula told the board that ‘Claricent Consulting demonstrated in its technical proposal and satisfied the evaluating committee its ability to deliver the required services and obtained a total score of 92.8 per cent in the weighted technical and financial proposals’.

Apart from failing to get the tender for the drugs probe, Claricent Consulting Services have been part of the controversy in the drugs probe, initially appearing in the first draft report that was used to extort the two suspended officers of the ministry of health.

This has been the case since Sincedile Dlamini-Magwaza and Deputy Director Pharmaceuticals Fortunate Bhembe were granted an interim order, prohibiting Claricent Consulting Services and/or Funduzi Forensic Services from investigating them.

This was after they challenged the integrity of the investigation, alleging it was tainted with illegality, impropriety, and multiple irregularities from the onset.

They contended that the forensic investigation was biased from the start, claiming that one of the lead investigators, Charles Kwezera, later dismissed over extortion allegations after soliciting payment in exchange for a report clearing them of any wrongdoing, had informed them that the intention of the report was to target certain individuals.

Kwezera, who according to the pricing schedule submitted by Funduzi Forensic Services, was to claim E240 000 of the E2 084 950 paid to the company, was recently arrested in South Africa on similar charges and subsequently granted bail by the eMalahleni Magistrate’s Court in Mpumalanga.

Discrepancies

The two then raised discrepancies regarding both companies’ documentation and affiliations.

Funduzi has courted controversy from the outset of the drugs probe, appearing to have been set up in October 2022, about a month before being awarded the tender to conduct the forensic investigation. The ACC has now entered the fray, in which it appears to have ruffled Funduzi and fished out Malinga, who can now be linked to Funduzi through the links with Claricent and some of the paperwork submitted for the limited tenders awarded by the auditor general. The ACC has approached Standard Bank with a request to have access to Malinga’s bank statement for scrutiny. The matter has been finalised and judgment has been reserved.

It will now appear that Malinga had access to Dlamini-Magwaza’s financial information, as her husband’s banker.

This comes amid allegations that Malinga unlawfully received payments through his Unayo account from Funduzi, the firm that purported to have investigated the suspended principal procurement officer, detailing her lifestyle amid a shortage of drugs and alleged flouting of procurement processes in the health ministry.

Claricent Consulting, where Malinga is cited as the sole director, also shares the same postal address as Funduzi Forensic Services, P.O Box 9, Mankayane, which according to the Eswatini Post and Telecommunications Corporation (EPTC) records, belongs to Malangeni Primary School.

The directors of the companies, despite bearing the same postal address, are not listed as the same person, as Claricent’s director is Malinga, while Funduzi’s directors are Thulani Mabuza and Patson Dlamini.

Acting Malangeni Primary School heateacher, Bhekizwe Dlamini disclosed that the school became aware of the misuse of its postal address only after an enquiry by the police.

He said he had no knowledge of why the school’s address would be utilised in tenders, but mentioned that it was not uncommon for locals to use the school’s address for personal matters, given its status as a mission school under the Alliance Church.

In addition, both Funduzi and Claricent are said to have not submitted their directors’ fingerprints and instead submitted a notice, purportedly released by the Royal Eswatini Police Service (REPS), which states that there were ‘unexpected delays to the issuance of police clearance certificates’ – a claim the police distanced themselves from.

That both companies share the same postal address was raised by the Swazi Pharm Director, Kareem Ashraff, in his founding affidavit where he is challenging the legality of the Funduzi report, alleging that it was tainted, claims he said emanated from the auditors general’s visit to his personal residence in Dalriach, Mbabane.

Matsebula, however in July 2023 denied ever approaching Claricent Consulting Services for the company to perform forensic investigation on behalf of his office.

This was after Timothy Mutyavairi, the director of Claricent Consulting Services in South Africa, raised concerns that his company had been tainted by a series of media reports and that he had been appointed to conduct a forensic investigation in the country without his consent. Mutyavairi further indicated that he would take legal action for the reputational damage that had been caused through the falsehoods being peddled in the media pertaining to the company.

Malinga is currently embroiled in a legal battle with the bank, where he contends that the disciplinary hearing was illegal and that it did not consider the contents of the ACC’s letter, which was in fact seeking information on who the beneficiaries of the deposits were.

He was alleged to have in May last year received over E880 000 and in October received E1.1 million.

In November, he is alleged to have received E990 000, totalling E2.87 million.

Funduzi refuted allegations that they were involved in acts of money laundering and corruption, citing that there were never any malicious intentions in the transactions they actioned with their banker, Malinga.

Funduzi confirmed in a statement issued in the wake of the ACC action that Malinga acted under their instructions since they were his clients, stating that the company saw nothing illegal with this unless the bank or the ACC could prove that they paid terrorists.

‘Malinga central to confidentiality breach’

Thembela Magwaza, the husband of suspended ministry of health Principal Procurement Officer Sincedile Dlamini-Magwaza has raised concern of a potential breach of confidentiality by Standard Bank Eswatini.

This comes amidst allegations that the bank’s employee, Delisa Malinga, unlawfully received payments from Funduzi Forensic Services.

In a letter dated June 11, Magwaza, who owns Isley Investments (Pty) Ltd, expressed concerns that sensitive financial information regarding his company may have been leaked by Malinga, who the bank has instituted disciplinary proceedings for allegedly accepting bribes from Funduzi.

According to Magwaza, the leaked data was part of a broader effort to implicate his wife, alleging a coordinated attempt involving individuals from Funduzi Forensic Services and Claricent Consulting Services, which is owned by Malinga.

“I believe the leak was intended to support unfounded accusations against my wife, damaging our reputation and influencing on-going investigations,” he complained, describing it as a ‘serious breach of client/banker confidentiality,’ and referencing media reports that implicated his wife in the drugs procurement scandal.

He said the family’s troubles began on September 19, 2023, when media outlets published detailed financial records purportedly linking Isley Investments to procurement irregularities, insisting that such information could only have been leaked by Standard Bank Eswatini, given their exclusive access to these details. He made it known that he believes Malinga was central to this breach, and on that account, requested a thorough investigation by the bank into the unauthorised disclosure of his personal and company financial records.

According to the bank manager under the investigation department, Sibusiso Mndzebele, he was informed by Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) officials that Malinga was allegedly one of the beneficiaries of the Funduzi account.

Information

In his confirmatory affidavit, Mndzebele stated that the ACC approached the bank seeking certain information about a bank account, which he freely gave as he works with the ACC on a daily basis, only to then be informed later that it belonged to a staff member of the bank.

Malinga’s application to stop the hearing and declare it time barred was argued before Judge Manene Thwala, where his representatives argued that the letter from the ACC was dated March 26 and the bank’s manager under the investigation unit Mndzebele purportedly actioned it on April 6.

As a result, Malinga through his lawyer Xolile Mnisi, argued that the hearing was time barred in terms of Clause 1.11.1 of the disciplinary code and procedure, as a period of 35 days had lapsed since management became aware of the matter.

Mnisi told the court that the bank did not do anything about the matter until he was notified by the ACC that one of the bank’s employees was a beneficiary of the monies from Funduzi’s account.

Mnisi said banks had an obligation to prevent money laundering, and argued that a person in Mndzebele’s position should have thought that something suspicious was going on.

“It is reasonable that a person of his training as an investigative manager would not think that misconduct had happened when he received the letter from the ACC,” said Mnisi, adding that banks had risk management divisions.

In response, Standard Bank, represented by Derrick Jele, said Malinga’s application had no substance and therefore, should be dismissed.

He said the letter from the ACC did not state that they were investigating an employee of the bank, pointing out that Mndzebele did not scrutinise the information as he dealt with the ACC on a weekly basis.

The bank’s Head Of Human Capital Bongiwe Hlophe also told the court that the bank only became aware that Malinga was implicated in some acts of misconduct after an interview with Mndzebele.

“Malinga was then charged on May 17 and the charge therefore, is not time barred,” Hlophe informed the court.

Standard Bank Eswatini Executive Head of Brand and Marketing, Sibusile Sigwane, said the bank was not at liberty to disclose client information due to external investigations by statutory organs that are on-going.

“Standard Bank respects client confidentiality and will not discuss client issues publicly,” she said.

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