Jeff Molobela. Picture: SUNDAY TIMES
Jeff Molobela. Picture: SUNDAY TIMES

On Wednesday, South African Bureau of Standards (SABS) chairman Jeff Molobela leapt to the defence of the organisation’s board, which has been given a notice of intention to suspend by Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies.

The notice was issued on Friday with board members being given five days in which to submit reasons why it should not be implemented.

The main reason for the notice was the dysfunctionality of the SABS, which Department of Trade and Industry director-general Lionel October said was not performing according to its mandate.

Other reasons were that the board had failed to act timeously on a request by Davies that it undertake a forensic investigation into the irregular issuance of an SABS certificate for sub-standard coal from Gupta-owned Brakfontein Mine; and that the subsidiary that issued the certificate, SABS Commercial, was established illegally as it did not get the required authorisation from the finance minister, as required by the Public Finance Management Act.

Addressing Parliament’s trade and industry committee Molobela said that the forensic investigation Davies requested in February had got underway 10 days ago. The delay was caused by the Department of Trade and Industry itself, which took a month to issue a request for a proposal to procure the services of a forensic investigator.

Molobela said SABS decided, instead, to use its own list of forensic investigators as this would be quicker. This procurement process had taken two months to finalise.

On the question of SABS Commercial, Molobela was emphatic that it had received the required approval from then Finance Minister Trevor Manuel in 2006 and that it had been legally constituted.

Molobela was only able to produce a copy of the SABS letter requesting approval for the creation of SABS Commercial, but insisted that the SABS was in possession of Manuel’s approval, which he had seen.