ICT Indaba row rages on

The fiasco surrounding Dina Pule’s possible role in the alleged misuse of funds intended for June’s ICT Indaba continues, after it emerged that the independent investigation into the claims was financed by the minister’s suspected romantic partner.

The issue surrounds the use of funds donated by industry players such as MTN, Telkom and Vodacom towards June’s ICT Indaba held in Cape Town, with the Sunday Times alleging that at least R100,000 (US$11,500) was taken by organiser Phosane Mngqibisa to buy Minister of Communications Dina Pule a pair of designer shoes in Barcelona. Mngqibisa has been linked to Pule romantically.

Mngqibisa vehemently denies the claims, and a supposedly independent forensic investigation by risk-management firm Pedlar, Compion, Henderson and Associates, was commissioned to examine the evidence, eventually concluding that that neither Mngqibisa nor Pule could be linked to any mishandling of funds and that there was no conclusive evidence of any romantic affair between the two. ITWeb in particular gave great stock to the report.

However, given the fact that the report was commissioned and paid for by Mngqibisa himself, speculation has further flared, with Democratic Alliance MP and communications spokesperson Marian Shinn calling the report a “whitewash” and “another smokescreen”, according to TechCentral. Shinn added that the financing of the investigation by Mngqibisa “underscores tremendously the lack of credibility”.

One of the partners involved in producing the report, Bart Henderson, refutes questions as to the independence of the investigation, telling TechCentral: “Any client commissioning a report of this nature, cannot expect that practitioners in this field will either manufacture, misrepresent, manipulate or construct evidence and/or information to either protect or vindicate them. That would be highly unethical and/or illegal in most instances.”

Though it is unclear as to whether the Minister was present on the flight and trip to Barcelona, the Sunday Times contends that Victor Dlamini, spokesperson for Carol Bouwer Productions – the event organising firm that hired Mngqibisa’s firm Khemano to assist with the preparations – has confirmed that R100,000 was withdrawn from the event’s funds by Mngqibisa and that the funds were used partially to pay for a pair of red-soled Christian Louboutin shoes given to Pule.

With speculation so rife, parties to the dispute and the public alike await the report of the public protector and parliament’s joint committee on ethics and members’ interests. The deputy press ombudsman only this week rejected a complaint against the Sunday Times on behalf of Mngqibisa, finding that the newspaper was justified in its reporting and conclusions as to the existence of a romantic relationship between the couple.

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