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Truth of Gupta Waterkloof landing never told – DA’s David Maynier

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Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane has been the target of a public outcry over the past few months, with questions being raised about her fitness to hold office.

Now, her predecessor, Thuli Madonsela, has raised questions about why Mkhwebane closed her investigation into the justice, crime prevention, and security (JCPS) cluster probe into the Gupta Waterkloof landing in 2013.

In an article published in Business Day on Tuesday, the newspaper quoted Madonsela as saying: “The truth is the investigation was completed and all we needed was a report. How after that they closed the investigation is a mystery.”

Western Cape Finance MEC David Maynier of the DA originally laid the complaint with the Public Protector in 2013 and says he does not support Mkhwebane’s decision.

“I don’t think the truth of the incident has ever been made public and I think it should.

“Nobody was ever really held accountable for what happened, in fact the reverse happened, everybody who was involved in that incident, which was a national scandal, was promoted,” Maynier said.

He continued: “A third issue that needs to be looked at is the practice of closing investigations but keeping the fact of that secret. There is now a question of other investigations that have been closed and not been made public.”

Maynier’s complaint related to the Gupta family landing a private aircraft at Waterkloof Air Force Base carrying 270 guests who were attending a wedding at Sun City.

The landing caused a stir among the public and, in a symbolic way, was said to be the beginning of the public’s exposure to the inner workings of state capture.

Also read: Guptas planning 2 lavish weddings at luxury ski resort – reports

The Public Protector’s investigation related to Lieutenant Colonel Christine Anderson who was implicated as the responsible person in the JCPS cluster probe. Anderson subsequently complained that the probe was “irregular”.

She was then charged with contravening the military defence code, but these charges were later dropped. As a result, Mkhwebane seemed to believe that her investigation would be null and void.

The JCPS investigation

The JCPS cluster exonerated then-president Jacob Zuma and his ministers but implicated, among others, two people – Bruce Koloane, the ambassador to the Netherlands, as well as Anderson. The report said they had irregularly given clearance for the landing.

“The activities of Ambassador Koloane and Lieutenant Colonel Anderson were a serious dereliction of duty in that they were advancing the objectives of this project to the detriment of their official responsibilities.”

It continues: “Their activities also indicate the bringing to bear of undue influence on state officials, systems, equipment and infrastructure … the roles of the two individuals had a similar effect in that due to their seniority and knowledge of departmental systems and processes in their respective areas, they both grossly abused and undermined these processes.”

The two, along with other co-accused, appeared in the military court at the Thaba Tshwane military base in Pretoria in 2013 and were charged with contravention of the military defence code.

Feeling that the probe “irregular”, Anderson then took to the Public Protector, saying she was used as a scapegoat.

Maynier also went to the Public Protector, asking Madonsela to investigate the role of Cabinet members and events leading up to the Waterkloof landing. Madonsela rejected this complaint due to insufficient evidence to justify it.

In a letter to Maynier, Madonsela said she would, however, investigate the task team.

“We will pursue this matter in respect of the complaint lodged by Col. Anderson where she had expressed dissatisfaction in the matter in which the task team dealt with the investigation in so far as her participation in the process was concerned.

“She alleges that the task team conducted itself in an irregular manner by making findings against her without having given her an opportunity to respond before the report was published similarly.”

READ MORE: Busisiwe Mkhwebane claims her office is going through ‘testing times’

Maynier welcomed this response.

“We have maintained from the start that the JCPS task team’s investigation was a carefully crafted damage control exercise designed to protect President Zuma and members of his Cabinet from the political fallout generated by ‘Guptagate’.”

The investigation seemed to ruffle some feathers and in 2015 charges were withdrawn against Anderson. Koloane, on the other hand, became the fall guy and pleaded guilty to all charges.

This withdrawal seems to be the basis upon which Mkhwebane has closed the case because an investigation would at that point be worthless.

Madonsela, in reply, told Business Day: “The report was important because it pointed to security fault lines beyond Anderson’s case. We interviewed everyone, including task team members [including then-correctional services commissioner Tom Moyane] and got the radio record.”

Mkhwebane has recently been under fire for three of her reports being set aside by the courts and has subsequently been labelled as Zuma’s last line of defence.

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Kenya: Principals Oppose Law on Teenage Pregnancy

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Secondary school heads have opposed a bill seeking to have them jailed if they refuse to readmit teenage girls who drop out of school due to pregnancy. The principals view the proposed penalty as ill-advised.

Kenya Secondary Schools’ Heads Association chair Kahi Indimuli said principals have always supported such students and cannot be subjected to punishment over mistakes made by learners.

JAIL TIME

He said such students should not be readmitted to the same school as that will create the impression that the institution condones teenage pregnancies.

The bill, now before Parliament, proposes that school heads, administrators, principals and boards should not deny the teenage mothers an opportunity to rejoin their former schools after delivery.

Under the Care and Protection Bill 2019, headteachers will be jailed for six months or fined up to Sh500,000 if they refuse to readmit the girls.

School management board members who refuse to readmit the girls will also be liable to a similar punishment.

The law has also not left parents of the teenage mothers out. Those who refuse to send their daughters back to school after delivery will also be punished.

The bill also bans discrimination against the girls and proposes that they be given an opportunity to make up for any missed classes or examinations.

Mr Indimuli said principals should not be condemned for the failure of parents to follow up with their children.

“Principals have been helping such girls to get admitted in different schools so that they study without victimisation,” Mr Indimuli said.

The Ministry of Education identifies the major causes of teenage pregnancies as lack of parental guidance and sex education in schools and moral decay in the society.

“Moral uprightness of a child is not the responsibility of teachers and school heads, parents should play the major role in modelling their children,” Mr Indimuli said.

During last year’s national exams, more than 11,000 teenage girls in primary and secondary schools were pregnant, according to statistics from the ministry.

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CTO expertise without the expense

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Nick Truran is CEO of AgileIT.

Nick Truran is CEO of AgileIT.

Using IT to drive business growth is not as simple as it sounds. Technology is evolving at such a fast rate that only the most lean and agile of organisations have managed to keep up.

Pressure on CIOs to justify extensive investments in IT (estimates are that as much as 10% of all business spend is on technology) is intense. This is aggravated by the fact that most IT executives have only a short contractual timeline to deliver and prove value.

Turning an IT ship to innovate and deliver on the business strategy takes time.

Chances are that by the time the executive has managed to get to grips with the organisation and forged a plan to address the original requirement, its needs have changed and a new plan is required. It’s little wonder that IT executives are becoming overwhelmingly fatigued by the constant turbulence.

Behold the fractional CTO

Enter the fractional or part-time chief technology officer (CTO), of which I would count myself as one. Equipped with the technical knowhow to evaluate the inner workings of the technology landscape, the fractional CTO is able to lend stability to current operations, and derive optimum performance and savings.

This frees the current CIO/CTO to focus on servicing the business and planning the innovation necessary to deliver on its strategy.

Likewise, a midsize business that does not require a full-time CIO/CTO, which is costly, can reap the benefits of their skills by using one part-time. This person should have a deep understanding of the needs of the organisation, as well as the technology required to underpin it, ensuring everything runs as it should.

For me, the latter is all about the maturity of the IT team as well as some of the service-centric best practices, such as the ITIL framework. The essence of ITIL is that it provides a critical prescriptive framework to assist IT teams to manage and measure service delivery to the business.

ITIL is a valuable process guideline, which allows IT teams to continually self-assess their maturity between levels one and five. A level five standard denotes a high level of predictability, resilience and stability within the organisation’s IT service delivery infrastructure. 

A fractional CTO will operate without bias or prejudice for the company, as the objective is, always, value creation to the customer.

The more mature the ITSM processes, the easier it is to manage change and transitions in the IT infrastructure. Yet despite the huge upside of ITSM, in my experience most South African IT shops barely attain a level two, and that is typically only after several years of its introduction into the business. This severely impacts the business’s ability to innovate and embrace new technologies on the path to becoming a truly digital business.

A fractional CTO brings best practice adoption, a business-centric service delivery model and operational efficiency through maximising the value of IT spend, rationalising partnerships, reducing complexity and driving up overall stability and performance.

This is achieved one step at a time, diligently chasing continual service improvement, investing in fit-for-purpose technology, and cultivating an environment that is monitored, metered and measured.

Many companies are willing to throw millions into the investment of various technologies with little or no value realisation, but with no one to steer this vessel to effective, monetised success, it is essentially a sinking ship and huge waste of capital.

Fractional CTO services offer the expertise needed, for a fraction of the cost, with five key areas of value:

  • Guidance: Mature environments require the right level of governance and compliance to facilitate optimal performance. He or she will manage the risk appetite of the business, through embedding controls that will ensure risks are highlighted early, mitigated where necessary and managed appropriately with the highest level of visibility and transparency.
  • Symbiosis: For any business to perform to its optimal potential, symbiosis between the company’s needs and technology delivery is a necessity. However, they are often worlds apart. A fractional CTO not only understands at all times the business strategy, market segments and its “go-to-markets”, he or she also provides technical input into the above with an “art of the possible” lens.
  • Objectivity: A fractional CTO will operate without bias or prejudice for the company, as the objective is, always, value creation to the customer. The fractional CTO’s role is to provide an objective evaluation of all hardware, software and IT-related services, as well as the vendor contracts associated with these.
  • Trend-spotter and recycle-focused strategies: While keeping a close eye on foreseeable future technological developments, the fractional CTO will help sweat all existing technology assets within the business, ensuring maximum value extraction at acceptable risk. This will ensure said technologies have been used to their fullest potential, with less waste in the environment.
  • Cost-effective: The last point is possibly the most compelling of the five; a fractional CTO is a cost-effective hire. The company will be able to reap the full benefits of an IT expert, while keeping within its means.

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‘Total political crap’: Apple takes on EU’s Vestager

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Margrethe Vestager

Apple fights the world’s biggest tax case in a quiet courtroom this week, trying to rein in the European Union’s powerful antitrust chief ahead of a potential new crackdown on Internet giants.

The iPhone maker will tell the EU general court in Luxembourg that it’s the world’s biggest taxpayer. But that’s not enough for EU competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager who said in a 2016 ruling that Apple’s tax deals with Ireland allowed the company to pay far less than other businesses. The court must now weigh whether regulators were right to levy a record €13-billion tax bill.

Apple’s haggling over tax comes after its market valuation hit US$1.02-trillion last week on the back of a new aggressive pricing strategy that may stoke demand for some smartphones and watches. The company’s huge revenue — and those of other technology firms — has attracted close scrutiny in Europe, focusing on complicated company structures for transferring profits generated from intellectual property.

A court ruling, likely to take months, could empower or halt Vestager’s tax probes, which are now focused on fiscal deals done by Amazon.com and Alphabet. She’s also been tasked with coming up with a “fair European tax” by the end of 2020 if global efforts to reform digital taxation don’t make progress.

“Politically, this will have very big consequences,” said Sven Giegold, a Green member of the European parliament. “If Apple wins this case, the calls for tax harmonisation in Europe will take on a different dynamic, you can count on that.”

Apple’s fury at the EU’s 2016 order saw CEO Tim Cook blasting the EU move as “total political crap”. The company’s legal challenge claims the EU wrongly targeted profits that should be taxed in the US and “retroactively changed the rules” on how global authorities calculate what’s owed to them.

‘Hates the US’

The US treasury weighed in too, saying the EU was making itself a “supra-national tax authority” that could threaten global tax reform efforts. US President Donald Trump hasn’t been silent either, saying Vestager “hates the United States” because “she’s suing all our companies”.

“There is a lot at stake given the high-profile nature of the case, as well as the concerns that have been raised from the US treasury that the investigations risk undermining the international tax system,” said Nicole Robins, a partner at economics consultancy Oxera in Brussels.

Vestager has also fined Google some $9-billion. She’s ordered Amazon to pay back taxes — a mere €250-million — and is probing Nike’s tax affairs and looking into Google’s taxation in Ireland.

Apple CEO Tim Cook

Apple declined to comment ahead of the hearing, referring to previous statements. The European Commission also declined to comment. Ireland said it “profoundly” disagreed with the EU’s findings.

The first hints of how the Apple case may turn out will come from a pair of rulings scheduled for 24 September.

The general court will rule on whether the EU was right to demand unpaid taxes from Starbucks and a Fiat Chrysler Automobiles unit. Those judgments could set an important precedent on how far the EU can question tax decisions national governments make on how companies should be treated.

“It’s very clear that the largest companies in the world — the frightful five I call them — are hardly paying taxes,” said Paul Tang, a socialist lawmaker at the European parliament. “Cases like these, Amazon in Luxembourg or Apple in Ireland, started to build public and political pressure” for tax reform in Europe.

The legal battles may go on for a few years more. The general court rulings can be appealed once more to the EU’s highest tribunal, the EU court of justice. Meanwhile, Apple’s back taxes — €14.3-billion including interest — sit in an escrow account and can’t be paid to Ireland until the final legal challenges are exhausted.  — Reported by Stephanie Bodoni and Aoife White, (c) 2019 Bloomberg LP

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