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ANC welcomes Public Protector Report on the abuse of power by USAASA Board

31st August 2018

The ANC in Parliament welcomes the damning report issued by the Public Protector, Adv. Busisiwe Mkhwebane, against the Board of Directors at the Universal Service and Access Agency (USAASA).

The Parliament Portfolio Committee on Telecommunications and Postal Services met with the USAASA Board led by Mr Cawe Mawethu in April 2018, where it became clear that this Board was law unto themselves. The Committee rejected the presentation by Mr Cawe and instructed the Board to go back, as it was clear that they did not know their responsibilities. It was also at this meeting that the Committee was informed of the suspension of the USAASA Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Mr Lumko Mtimde, an act that seemed (even at the time) as an unlawful action by the Board, as it was not approved by the Minister. This led to Mr Mtimde reporting these unlawful actions by the Board to the Office of the Public Protector.

The ANC is satisfied with the Public Protector's findings and remedial actions; in particular, supports the finding that the Minister takes decisive and appropriate action against USAASA Board of Directors for violations that include failure to heed to advices from Treasury and the Auditor General in relation to the "unnecessary, reckless and unconscionable" use of public funds.

We further support that the Minister consider whether it is necessary to secure a declaration that finds all members of the Board to be delinquent Directors. We call on the Minister to immediately implement the remedial actions imposed by the Public Protector and we will monitor the implementation of these.

This ruling by the Public Protector sets a good governance precedence against abuse of power by some in the Boards of State Owned Entities. It is a lesson that those who accept fiduciary responsibilities to serve in Boards must learn from. The actions and contraventions of law by USAASA Board are criminal in nature and deserves harsh action, as a lesson to avoid these in future.

The ANC also welcomes the Gauteng North High Court Judgment on the irregularities relating to the procurement of Set Top Boxes as part of the Broadcasting Digital Migration Project. We await the outcomes of the Arbitration led by the former Judge Justice Ngcobo on the related contract management issues.

Issued by the Chairperson of the ANC Study Group on Telecommunications and Postal Services, comrade Jabu Mahlangu.

Nonceba Mhlauli

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