The Permanent Secretary in the Trade Ministry, Peggy Serame has defended the recent and controversial appointment of former Member of Parliament for GoodHope-Mabule James Matlhokgwane as Regional Operations Director at the Selebi-Phikwe Economic Diversification Unit (SPEDU).
Matlhokgwane’s appointment took centre stage on Wednesday when the Trade Ministry, which is the parent ministry of SPEDU appeared before the Public Accounts Committee (PAC).
A member of the PAC, Ditlhapelo Keorapetse who is also Member of Parliament (MP) for Selebi Phikwe West asked Serame to clarify the controversial appointment which some liken to a political trade-off.
Keorapetse, who reminded Serame that she is under oath repeatedly, noted that by the time SPEDU was turned into a company in December, the position of Regional Operations Director, which has been given to Matlhokgwane, was not part of the organisational structure.
Serame however maintained that the organisational structure of SPEDU was created with various posts of directors, which could be the one that has been extended as ‘regional director’. The Trade PS however told PAC that as the parent ministry they are not responsible for the appointment of directors of SPEDU but rather only appoint the Chief Executive Officer.
“The minister only appoints the CEO while other positions are appointed by the board and the CEO. The organisational structure is also approved by the board and in the case of SPEDU it was approved in December last year”, Serame said.
To drive her point home, Serame stressed that after the recent media allegations on the appointment of SPEDU’s new Regional Operations Director, she consulted the CEO at SPEDU about the issue who then confirmed that Matlhokgwane’s appointment was legitimate.
“The CEO told me that there was a position which was advertised in the local media and the said individual had applied and was subsequently interviewed and appropriately hired”, Serame said.
SPEDU was established following a study on the town’s economic diversification that was commissioned through the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning with funding from the European Union. The study recommended the establishment of a diversification unit to spearhead the implementation of the regeneration programme proposed for Selebi Phikwe. Afterwards, SPEDU was established as a regional economic development agency in 2008 through a presidential directive. Its functions are to manage the diversification programme; identify projects and progress them to potential investors; work with existing project promoters and with government in respect of public sector projects; help promote and enhance the image of Selebi Phikwe and identify and secure outside technical assistance to carry out feasibility studies and other specialised tasks.