The minister of agriculture, land reform and rural development, Thoko Didiza, has appointed a new interim board for Onderstepoort Biological Products (OBP) and ordered the director-general of her department to investigate allegations of impropriety in the state-owned animal vaccine manufacturing company.
The interim board of directors, with two new, additional members, have taken their seats following the expiry of the term of office of the previous board on 31 July 2020. Their urgent mandate is to finalise the current audit process of the troubled SOE and to compile a close-out report.
Announcing the appointments, Didiza said in a press release: “Following allegations of mismanagement and wrongdoing within the OBP, I have tasked the director-general, Mr Mdu Shabane, to establish a process to ensure that all allegations raised by various stakeholders are investigated without fear or favour.”
The Minister has assured all stakeholders and members of the public that the process to appoint the new board is at an advanced stage and will be concluded soon.
In January serious allegations were levelled against OBP’s CEO and its board. It was alleged that the state-owned enterprise’s previous chief executive, Baptiste Dungu, left the company under a cloud, was hired improperly and had driven out three executives since March 2020, when he return to the company where he had held a different position previously.
In a statement issued by the office of the chief executive officer on Wednesday, 22 January 2020, OBP said it was not going to be distracted in their focus by these “malicious allegations”.
Allegations a ‘smear campaign’
The state owned entity said at the time that the allegations were “clearly a smear campaign initiated by aggrieved individuals through certain media platforms. Such a campaign is nothing but an orchestrated distraction and mischief which seeks to deter the Board and Management on turning around OBP.
“OBP’s current focus is on turning around the organisation that has suffered from poor performance, corruption, mismanagement and loss of market share,” the statement read.
OBP has been linked to much controversy over the years. In his 2018-2019 external audit report the Auditor General, Kimi Makwetu, uncovered serious mismanagement, irregular expenditure and supply chain irregularities that took place over a four-year period.
According to their (OBP’s) statement in January 2020, these irregularities were linked to the facility improvement project that was funded by National Treasury to the tune of R492 million in 2014.
The following seven members will serve as the interim board:
- Dr Boitshoko Ntshabele (new member and interim chair)
- Dr Manishree Jugmohan-Naidu (new member)
- Mr Tshililo Ramabulane
- Dr Charlotte Nkuna
- Dr Pieter Vervoort
- Mr Yaasir Haffejee
- Ms Fulufhelo Mphuthi