Another whistleblower nailed at CIPRO - DA

Risk manager suspended for passing on information to the police

Cipro: whistleblowers are being dismissed

The allegation that a senior official at the Companies and Intellectual Property Registration Office (Cipro) has been dismissed due to cooperation with the SAPS is very serious and requires urgent attention by the Minister of Trade and Industry, Rob Davies. Rocco De Lorenzo, the Risk Manager at Cipro, was suspended on a charge of "breach of confidentiality" after he supplied information to the Police. The SAPS investigation involves tender rigging charges made against the Chief Information Officer, Michael Twum-Darko.

If this person has indeed been suspended, then we must ask how it could be possible to justify the dismissal of employee that want to expose corruption? That is precisely why South Africa has laws in place to protect whistleblowers.  If informants are not protected, then what is the prospect of fighting corruption in government?

The situation at Cipro is in urgent need of intervention. Davies stated in the portfolio committee that the Electronic Content Management (ECM) tender has been given a "clean bill of health" - while the forensic report is in fact still in the process of finalisation by the Auditor-General (A-G). The Director General, Tshediso Matona knows this, but appears to be keeping this information from Davies.

All is certainly not well at Cipro. The following serve as examples of the dire state in which the office finds itself:

  • The A-G instructed Cipro to retract a statement that the ECM tender was audited by the A-G and that no problems where found during the audit - because it was not the case.
  • Five Cipro staff members who were implicated in the duplication of company names (apparently for the purpose of committing tax fraud) have not been charged at all - three months after these officials were suspended from their posts.
  • The Chief Information Officer (CIO) of Cipro, Michael Twum-Darko, who has been implicated in allegations of tender rigging, has still not received a security clearance as is required for his post where he has access to a host of sensitive information.
  • Twum-Darko was apparently appointed on a salary far higher than that mentioned by the advertisement for his post and has since seen exceptional increases. His salary after one year was already 50% more than the average salary stated in the advertisement for his post.

Cipro plays a crucial role in the South African economy - it is the hub of the formal economy. Information on all registered businesses resides in the office. If the data is not secure then companies are being exposed to massive fraud. The duplication of company information and the false claims for tax paybacks is a clear illustration of what has already gone wrong at Cipro.

The DA will be pursuing this matter further; it is unacceptable that such a crucial institution is left to suffer from gross mismanagement and corruption due to a complete lack of leadership. Nothing is done to instil a culture in which staff is encouraged to speak out on corruption - the apparent suspension of De Lorenzo suggests that the opposite is happening. The DA will be following up on these issues by means of further written questions to the Minister. 

[See CIPRO CEO Keith Sendwe's reply here.]

Statement issued by Andricus van der Westhuizen, MP, Democratic Alliance deputy shadow minister of trade and industry, November 20 2009

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