Sisulu dissolves housing agency board, again

Human Settlements Minister Lindiwe Sisulu has again placed the troubled Housing Development Agency (HDA) under administration, weeks after firing its leaders and appointing the controversial Nkululeko Poya as acting chief executive officer.

Sisulu had originally intended replacing the board at the end of February.

In a letter to the members of the interim board on Tuesday, Sisulu said she had decided to dissolve the board “to ensure a smooth handover” to a permanent board, which was still to be appointed. She appointed Neville Chainee, a deputy director in human settlements, as administrator with immediate effect.

The board effectively overturned her decision to fire the chief financial officer, Brian Masehla, last week.

Poya will remain acting chief executive, despite the outcry by employees unhappy with his work history

He is a former chief executive officer of the Railway Safety Regulator (RSR), and resigned from the post days before a misconduct hearing at which he was to face 14 charges stemming from his alleged use of its resources to spy on employees and the media — including on a Mail & Guardian journalist — and to enrich his company, Umtongata Proprietary Limited. Poya had spent two years on suspension over the charges, which were brought against him in 2017.

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At the time the board chairperson, Zethu Qunta, said the resignation was taken as an admission of guilt by Poya, whose behaviour had a “detrimental effect” on the regulator’s reputation and its financial position.

The RSR later laid criminal charges against Poya with the Hawks.

Poya was then appointed to the Central Energy Fund board in 2019 by Minerals and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe, a move that angered opposition parties.

Last year Poya became the HDA’s chief operating officer after a shake-up by Sisulu in which she appointed former Mvelaphanda executive Mikki Xayiya as chief executive and his close associate, Masehla, as chief financial officer.

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The HDA’s head of corporate support, Rashida Issel, said Poya had been employed as chief operating officer after a rigorous selection process which found him to be the most qualified  of 23 candidates.

He added that Poya’s appointment as acting chief executive was done lawfully and would last until a permanent appointment was made.

Issel said Poya had left the RSR because of the delays in the disciplinary process. He had not been charged with any alleged offence at the RSR and had been subjected to a security assessment when appointed to the CEF board and had no criminal record.

Last month, after a series of failures by the HDA in its rollout of the Temporary Residential Unit programme, aimed at de-densifying shack areas, Sisulu fired Xayiya and Masehla. Xayiya has been moved back to act as board chairperson until a new board was appointed.

Last Friday, the HDA issued a statement stating it had unanimously resolved to appoint Poya as acting chief executive until a permanent chief executive was appointed in line with Sisulu’s decision.

The board also ratified Sisulu’s decision to re-appoint Xayiya as acting board chair until a permanent board was appointed.

But it overturned Sisulu’s decision regarding Masehla and resolved that he would be allowed to complete his contract as chief financial officer.

In the statement, the board said it had the powers to make the decision.

On Tuesday, Sisulu’s spokesperson Steven Motale said the minister “has since put HDA under administration until a permanent board approved by cabinet is put in place. 

He said that “Minister Sisulu is done with the HDA. Her focus is now on the Vaal.” 

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