Independent Media’s Special Investigations Unit has uncovered more irregularity by Communications Minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams.
After revelations published in the past weeks, the unit has now learnt that at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic in July, Ndabeni-Abrahams was accused of flouting procurement processes by a senior official at the SA Post Office.
Ndabeni-Abrahams introduced businessman and chairperson of private equity firm Convergence Partners, Andile Ngcaba, to the entity’s executives in an alleged bid to partner on a highly lucrative R2.1billion e-commerce platform.
Although Ndabeni-Abrahams and Ngcaba have denied the claim, a highly placed whistle-blower at the post office alleged that in July, Ndabeni-Abrahams introduced Ngcaba to the board outside of normal procurement processes and were told to partner with him and his company on the e-commerce platform called Combat Covid-19 Africa.
This was against the backdrop of the post office having already concluded a similar assignment and having already identified a service provider after going through an extensive Request for Information (RFI).
According to the source, Ngcaba had not responded to any RFI, nor had he or his organisation submitted any documents to show that they were bidding for a contract or partnership with the entity.
Ngcaba, who denied the allegations through his lawyers, said the presentation was at the invitation of the deputy director-general.
His lawyer Eric Mabuza said Ngcaba made the presentation in his capacity as a convener and leader of non-profit Combat Covid-19 Africa.
He furnished an email dated July 2, 2020, where he was asked to participate.
Independent Media has seen two emails, one dated July 17, 2020, and another July 23, 2020, where Ndabeni-Abrahams’s office requested the Post Office to discuss its e-commerce platform.
Ngcaba is also a recipient of one of the emails where the minister requests post office officials to prepare a presentation on the state of readiness of its projects on the e-commerce platform.
“Dr Ngcaba made this presentation in his capacity as a convener and leader of non-profit Combat Covid-19 Africa. Combat Covid-19 Africa does not have any commercial interests whatsoever,” Mabuza said.
“It, therefore, follows that Combat Covid-19 Africa is not a service provider to Sapo or any other company,” he said.
Ndabeni-Abrahams’s spokesperson Mish Molakeng said the emails were internal correspondence between the minister and her department.
According to the source, when the meeting eventually took place, the post office first presented its e-commerce delivery strategy.
“Ngcaba then presented his e-commerce ecosystem, which was advocating for partnerships with Sapo to leverage on the African Continental Free Trade Agreement. The platform, according to Ngcaba, would eliminate the payment of tariffs on a large variety of goods traded between African countries,” said the source.
Ngcaba then further proposed that the entity’s e-commerce platform be built on his Combat Covid-19 Africa platform that offered e-commerce, e-learning, Artificial Intelligence and track and trace features, said the source.
The source added that government data that was to be given to Ngcaba as a private entity to run through his system violated the data protection policies of the government.
However, Ngcaba’s lawyer denied these claims
“It is factually incorrect to claim that government data was supposed to be shared with Combat Covid-19 Africa when the presentation simply poses a question to the audience to see what competitive strategy can be used in the e-commerce space,” he said.