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African Union: Theft, intimidation, nepotism allegations against AU body

By Jeune Afrique
Posted on Thursday, 19 November 2020 10:57

African Union
African leaders pose for group photograph at the opening session of the 33rd African Union (AU) Summit at the AU headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia Sunday, Feb. 9, 2020. (AP Photo)

The AU's African Peer Review Mechanism is the focus of an internal investigation. Whistleblowing staff members have spoken out against their leaders at the APRM, accusing them of nepotism, favouritism, corruption, and other charges. 

It was a 26-page document, which Jeune Afrique was able to consult, setting the wheels in motion.

Written in July by employees of the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM), a structure run by the African Union (AU), it details allegations of “bad governance, corruption, nepotism, favouritism […], threats, blackmail, intimidation and arbitrary dismissals” within the organisation based in Johannesburg, South Africa.

“The governance practised at the APRM Continental Secretariat in Midrand, South Africa, is nothing short of horrible, awful and outrageous, especially for an institution that is supposed to show an example to the rest of the continent”, write the whistleblowers.

“The APRM is expected to be at the forefront of promoting the values of the African Union [AU] … such as respect, loyalty, integrity, impartiality, transparency and accountability, efficiency and professionalism. However the continental secretariat seems to be going in the very opposite direction,” says the report.

A million dollars missing?

According to information gathered by Jeune Afrique, the document has been forwarded to key AU officials, including Cyril Ramaphosa, the South African head of state, who currently holds the presidency of the AU.

Several accusations are detailed in the document, which implicate, among others, the director general of the secretariat, the South African Edward Maloka, and his compatriot Mamathimolane Makara, director of corporate services.

“The recruitment and dismissal process of the continental APRM Secretariat is the most cacophonous and biased you will ever find in the organs of the African Union,” write the whistleblowers. They detail, on an employee-by-employee basis, alleged “conflicts of interest”, situations of “favouritism” (notably through “bonus distribution”) or arbitrary dismissals.

Several other specific situations are mentioned in this note, which includes some of the conclusions of an audit already carried out internally in 2018. According to the authors, who are calling for an independent investigation on this point, a $1m donation from the Nigerian state dating from 2018 has thus “disappeared” from the APRM bank account.

The APRM has also, according to its employees who created the document, hired the South African company Valerie M Travel Services “without any proper bidding process”. In the contract binding this company to the APRM, an agreement would also provide that the latter’s “credit card” would be “retained by Valerie M Travel Services”. This company, the document says, is owned by “a friend” of Mamathimolane Makara.

Commission of Inquiry

The document also summarises several operational incongruities: the printing, on her APRM account, of T-shirts for the personal church of Liziwe Masilela, Director of Communications; the use of an APRM bus to transport guests to Mamathimolane Makara’s fourtieth birthday party in Bloemfontein, 400 kilometres from Johannesburg.

On 6 August, the APRM Director of Personnel, Ferdinand Katendeko, issued a circular committing all employees to “remain calm” and “not to be distracted” by the “anonymous document in circulation”.

“Management takes the subject seriously […] and will get to the bottom of things,” says Katendeko in this letter that we have consulted.

According to sources of Jeune Afrique, the AU has set up a commission of inquiry to investigate these allegations. The commission has, among other things, begun interviewing some of the concerned employees at the APRM.

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