NYDA’s existence questioned

Scandals, malfunctioning and mismanagement continue to rock the National Youth Development Agency (NYDA), but ANC MPs insist that the controversial body “gives hope” to the youth of South Africa.

The NYDA board, under the chairmanship of Yershen Pillay, presented their First Quarter Expenditure and Performance Report today, 6 August 2013, for the 2013/14 financial year to the Standing Committee on Appropriations, amid a series of suspensions of senior managers and allegations of credit card abuse.

Pillay, who was appointed by President Jacob Zuma in March this year, made great play of the Agency’s “60% excellence” in achieving their performance targets, adding that “more excellence is to follow in the next few quarters”.

But at a closer look, it became apparent that the agency is behind in 14 of their 27 key performance areas for the first quarter of the financial year. Moreover, the NYDA admitted that they are struggling to collect loans given to beneficiaries.

During question time, DA MP Tim Harris (also the party’s spokesman on finances) put it to the board that the NYDA hasn’t shown parliament anything to suggest it has any reason for existence.

“Taxpayers are putting R400m into this agency each year and we’re certainly, based on the report you’ve given us, not getting value for money,” he said.

Harris also asked Pillay to respond to allegations made in the Sunday World that he was investigated by the Public Protector for, among other things, credit card abuse. “We need reassurance and explanations as to what exactly happened,” he told Pillay.

The Sunday World also reported that the NYDA chief executive officer, Steven Ngubeni has been suspended, following the suspensions of chief operations officer Magdalene Moonsamy and corporate services manager Vincent Mulaudzi.

“The chairperson [Pillay] today says that the NYDA is being cleaned up, but forgive us for being sceptical,” Harris said. “We deserve some clarity on what processes have been instituted against Mr Ngubeni, who will conduct the processes and what the timeframe is.”

But the ANC soon stepped in, defending Pillay and the rest of the board. “I have no doubt in my mind that the NYDA will play an important role in the future and give hope to the youth of this country,” ANC MP Johan Gelderblom said.

His fellow-party member Lumka Yengeni went a step further, saying that the NYDA doesn’t need to respond to “media allegations”. “This board is new and they have redesigned their strategy and all you do is judge them,” she said in reference to Harris.

“We don’t rely on the media – they’re not our source. As members of parliament, if we have enquiries we follow the right channels. We will not be diverted and dwell on media allegations,” Yengeni said.

Deputy Minister in the Presidency, Obed Bapela, who was also present in this morning’s briefing, confirmed in his response that the former CEO has been formally charged for financial misconduct and that the Chief Operations Officer was suspended because she was being investigated by the CEO at the time that he was suspended.

Bapela also said that there was no formal investigation by the Public Protector into alleged credit card abuse by Pillay, but that he had asked for information on the matter.

Harris later said in a statement that he intended on requesting the Minister of Finance, Pravin Gordhan, to review the NYDA's budget of R392m in the Medium Term Budget Policy Statement in October.

“The picture painted in Parliament today was of an organisation in disarray,” Harris said. “South Africans should no longer be saddled with this financial burden. Young people deserve an effective response to the youth unemployment crisis. The NYDA is not the answer and must be disbanded.”

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