TRC boss cleared of corruption charges 

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Mohalenyane Phakela

THE board of the Transformation Resource Centre (TRC) has cleared its executive director, Tsikoane Peshoane, of the corruption charges levelled against him by the organisation’s staffers.

Sixteen TRC staffers wrote to the TRC board on 1 February 2022 accusing Mr Peshoane of unfair labour practices, poor financial management, poor project management and the misuse of organisations’ funds and assets, among other things.

The TRC board subsequently suspended Mr Peshoane and launched investigations into the staffers’ allegations.

In a statement this week, the board said it had cleared Mr Peshoane of the charges. The staffers had accused Mr Peshoane of, among other things, failing to pay them their 13th cheques last year. Mr Peshoane had then argued that he could not pay the bonuses due to lack of funds.

The board absolved Mr Peshoane of any wrongdoing, acknowledging that his failure to honour the bonus payments had indeed been due to lack of funds. However, the board also acknowledged that the staffers’ contracts stipulated the payments of the 13th cheques and suggested that Mr Peshoane had exercised “poor judgment”, by not prioritizing their payment, the lack of funds notwithstanding.

He, was, however, fit to continue running the affairs of the highly influential human rights organisation, the board said.

“The TRC board remains convinced of Tsikoane Peshoane’s abilities and capabilities at the helm of the organisation and in dispensing its mandate,” the board said in its statement signed by its deputy chairperson, Professor Tšepo Mokuku.

“The investigation reveals no wrongdoing by the Executive Director (Peshoane). What we do observe is that there was a poor judgement on his part occasioned by the lack of funds. Since their contracts of employment were terminated in December 2021, the employees were entitled to the 13th cheque (bonuses) which the board should ensure they receive as they were mandatorily incorporated into staff contracts.

“The organisation must properly construct its employment contracts templates to incorporate the fact that continued employment with the TRC, remuneration and all benefits accruing out of employment are specifically dependent on funding availability,” Prof Mokuku stated.

Mr Peshoane had also been accused of poor project management. The staffers alleged that he had diverted funds and this had caused a backlog in terms of the implementation of projects by the TRC. In its investigations, the board noted that although there were instances where there had been a diversion from the originally planned projects, there was “nothing improper in that regard”.

“It is quite common to tweak activities in order to achieve a number of outcomes such as greater efficiencies in resource utilisation. The key is to do these changes within the prescripts of donor guidelines and/or obtain proper approvals,” the board said.

It also dismissed other allegations of fraudulent behaviour on the part of Mr Peshoane and the abuse of the organisation’s resources and assets.

“Neither the investigation reports nor audit reports implicate the Executive Director in any fraud in the execution of his functions. However, there are expenditures approvals done without the advice of the finance unit. This undermined strict adherence to original budget lines because there is no clarity on how activities’ co-financing and cost-sharing should be done. The investigation has recommended that misallocated expenditures be reversed and appropriately charged to the donors to whom they relate or be absorbed by the TRC, if not specific to any donor.

“The cited examples of overspending on the procurement of the (director’s) vehicle were reviewed and found comprehensive in terms of proper approvals through the board. The total overspend was also determined as M186 218 and not M300 000. However, the board has noted as highlighted in the investigation report that the justification for such overspending needed to be properly documented as that is extremely valuable for compliance and audit purposes.

“The investigations have reviewed terms of engagement for the Executive Director and noted that he is entitled to a petrol allowance of M3000 and personal use of the organisation’s vehicle. They have also further confirmed that the use of organisational vehicle full time for personal use does not constitute misuse.

“Regarding petrol abuse, a voucher for M20 101, 05 for several vehicles was reviewed and none of those vehicles had incurred the alleged amount between the 10 December 2021 to 16 January 2022. Although there is no evidence of misuse, the board must strengthen its oversight to ensure that there is a clear monitoring system of tracking personal use and ensuring that payments of all allowances and fringe benefits are within limits prescribed.”

“The investigations have found no evidence to the allegations of failing to address staff welfare issues. Therefore, in the absence of concrete evidence, it is difficult to pin the allegations on the Director.

“The issue of organisational welfare is primary responsibility of all members of the TRC delegated to the board at annual general meetings after presentation of reports. Thus, all decisions relating to the budget and activities are sanctioned by the board and this was confirmed by the board.

“The investigations have therefore concluded that certain grievances were misconstrued, others unfounded and inaccurate. Other grievances, though legitimate, were not the doing of the Executive Director and he cannot be held liable. The board therefore remains convinced of Tsikoane Peshoane’s abilities and capabilities at the helm of the organisation and in dispensing its mandate,” Prof Mokuku states on behalf of the TRC board.

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