NPA involved in Mappp Seta dispute

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Kevin Bloom
Reproduced with permission from The Media magazine

A dispute between the Sector Education Training Authority for the media, advertising, publishing, printing and packaging industries (MAPPP-SETA) and the leading institution for the training of professional printers, the Cross Media Training College (CMTC), is set to heat up when legal papers are served on the authority this week. The dispute is the result of allegations of non-payment, stemming from parties with links to the CMTC, and a forensic audit into alleged payment irregularities commissioned by the SETA and handed to the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) for further investigation.

Detailing the CMTC?s grievance in an article published in the printing industry journal Graphix in September, president of the Printing Industries Federation of South Africa (PIFSA) Lambert Retief refers to "a last payment received from the SETA', which related to a February 2005 claim. "No subsequent payments have been received. Claims of more than R6- million are outstanding at the time of writing this. The CMTC has no chance of survival without this funding.'

Retief also points out in the article that "the printing, packaging and print media industries contribute approximately 59 percent of the SETA?s R107-million levy income', with the budgeted allocation to CMTC for 2005 amounting to R8,4-million. "PIFSA?s point of view on this is clear. CMTC is the main training institution in South Africa and should be funded from SETA contributions by our members.'

In a linked article in the same issue of Graphix, CEO of PIFSA Chris Sykes writes: "We are being compelled to approach the courts to obtain clarification on the legislation which is being used to prevent the payment of discretionary grants to the college.'

Although neither Sykes nor Lambert point out their connection to the CMTC in their respective articles, the training institution?s website (www.crossmedia.co.za) confirms that, "the Cross Media Training Centre is owned by the Printing Industries Federation of South Africa (PIFSA).'

eMedia further notes that the MAPPP-SETA 2004/2005 annual report includes a clause on disclosure of interests, in terms of which the authority is compelled to divulge "transactions with related parties'. Listed amongst these parties is MAPPP-SETA "member' Sykes, of "PIFSA/CMTC', the recipient of a discretionary grant of R6,44-million in the year under review.

Neither Sykes nor CMTC?s managing director Nick Delport have responded to requests for comment on the case, stating that the matter is sub judice.

Melanie Bernard-Fryer, appointed CEO of the MAPPP-SETA on May 1st this year, says: "The official comment from the chair and executive committee is "no comment?, because the papers are being served on MAPPP-SETA either today or tomorrow by CMTC.'

Nevertheless, in two communiques put out by Bernard-Fryer in September, requests were made to employers that used the CMTC?s training services "to furnish [the authority] with details of how much money was refunded for the period October 2003 [to] August 2005.'

Further, although Bernard-Fryer only commenced as CEO after the year-end to March 31st 2005, she did sign off on the current annual report. Incorporated in this report is the result of the internal forensic audit conducted by auditing firm Alpha Millard during the previous financial year, which highlights various "non-compliance issues', including: "grants paid to training providers without proper application and approval procedures'; "lack of proper internal control measures'; and "non-compliance with statutory and regulatory requirements, with specific reference to the Public Finance Management Act and Skills Development legislation.'

The annual report goes on to note that the MAPPP-SETA?s former chief financial officer, Ms J Muller, who was acting CEO prior to the appointment of Bernard-Fryer, "apparently did not present the internal audit report to the [executive committee], who was obliged to comment and act thereon.' Muller has since resigned and instituted CCMA action against the SETA.

The annual report states, amongst a number of other corrective measures, that the following actions have since been instituted by Bernard-Fryer: "advising [the executive committee] to ensure the finalisation of the forensic audit report,' and, "discontinuing payment of discretionary grants that do no not adhere to legislative requirements.'

The annual report also states in respect of Bernard-Fryer?s corrective measures that the "forensic audit report [is] to be referred to the National Prosecuting Authority for investigation.'

Kevin Bloom

Reproduced with permission from The Media magazine and emedia email newsletter. Visit their website at www.themedia.co.za.

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