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Friday, October 28, 2011

Press council Rule on complaint by Peter Setou against the Sunday Independent

The Press ombud has ruled against Mr Setou who claims that the story about the alleged corruption and investigation are false and misleading. The report is long so we have only taken excepts therefrom.

Feel free to follow the link and read the complete report.
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2011 >>


Peter Setou vs. Sunday Independent
Posted by Khanyi Mndaweni (pmsa) on Oct 14 2011 at 11:00 AM

Ruling by the Deputy Press Ombudsman
October 14, 2011
This ruling is based on the written submissions of attorneys De Swardt Vögel Myambo, for Mr P. Setou, and the Sunday Independent newspaper.
 
Complaint
Mr Peter Setou complains about a story in the Sunday Independent, published on August 21, 2011and headlined Hawks investigate complaints – Allegations of a conflict of interest and corruption against Credit Ombudsman.

Setou complains that the newspaper:
• did not contact him for his comment; and
• used a wrong document that falsely alleges that he had an inappropriate relationship with Rudo Consulting.
Analysis
The story, written by Gcwalisile Khanyile, is about complaints by debt counsellor Reginald Nyiko Matjokana against Credit Ombudsman Manie (misspelt in the story – “Mannie”) van Schalkwyk (for conflict of interest), former National Credit Regulator (NCR) CEO Gabriel Davel (for maladministration) and senior manager of education and strategy Peter Setou (for corruption). The story says that Matjokana lodged these complaints with the Public Protector and the Hawks.

Khanyile writes that Setou was being investigated by the Hawks. The complaint with the Public Protector is reportedly about Setou’s relationship with Rudo Consulting (RC), an independent consulting firm with expertise in debt counselling 
(who was to assist the NCR with monitoring and providing support to debt counsellors).

We shall now look at the merits of the complaint:

Not contacted for comment
The story says that Setou was “unavailable for comment”, implying that it tried to contact him. Setou complains that the Sunday Independent did not ask him for comment prior to publication. He adds that the newspaper nevertheless proceeded to publish the story – resulting in creating the impression that there was some wrongdoing on his part. His lawyer writes: “The irresponsible manner in which this story was researched and published has tarnished our client’s reputation.” The newspaper denies this, saying that "...our reporter…then sent him sms notices on his cellphone…” in order to elicit a response from him. 
I asked the newspaper for copies of these sms notices.

This is what the newspaper sent me:

Dear Mr. Setou
I’ve been trying to get hold of you, but your phone is still on voicemail. We are doing a story about corruption allegations against you relating to Rudo Consulting, DSG (Digital Solutions Group) and Feasibility. The Hawks and the public Protector are already investigating you.
1. Why did you record the incorrect figure when you recommended the appointment of Rudo Consulting?
2. Was your intention to deceive other Expo members?
3. You also recorded an incorrect figure on your recommendation for an appointment of DSG, saying the cost was below R100 000 when it was actually more. Why did you do it?
4. Did you have any hidden agenda when you did this? (Please explain). We would appreciate any other comment or additional information related to this matter as we intend to publish the matter we understand to be true.
Our deadline is: Saturday, August 20 2011 @ 17:H00
Kind regards,
Gcwalisile Khanyile
The Sunday Independent Journalist. 076 423 1144/ 011 633 2356
Fax number: 011 633 2216
Or Email: gcwali.khanyile@inl.co.za or gcwalie32@gmail.com"


the report also contains a second sms...

..."there are no dates to these messages. However, the journalist sent these to me seconds after we have spoken on the phone – which makes it unlikely if not impossible that she has made them up afterwards. I have checked that the number that the journalist said she used was the right one. It was indeed. Also, there is no apparent reason why the journalist would purposefully send these messages to a wrong number. Therefore, I believe that I have enough evidence to accept that the newspaper tried to contact Setou.

Wrong document; False allegation
The sentence in dispute says: “Setou allegedly manipulated various contracts to favour Rudo Consulting.” 

...

The issues at stake are:
• Did the newspaper use the correct document?
• If it did not, how reasonable was it for the newspaper to use that document?
• Was the newspaper’s reportage, based on a right or wrong document, reasonable and fair?

Another document that the newspaper provided me with now features – the NCR one, dated 25 August 2011. In this memorandum to Setou, the NCR informs him that he was required to attend a disciplinary enquiry/hearing into several allegations of misconduct against him. These allegations range from preferential treatment of suppliers, fraud and failure to disclose his relationship with a service provider, to breach of the provisions of his special leave. He is also told that, if he was found guilty of any of these charges, he would be dismissed. I note that the story was published on August 21 ...The story says that there was an allegation that Setou manipulated contracts to favour RC – and it is true that there was such an allegation. (This has nothing to do with the question whether Setou was guilty or not.) This means that the newspaper was justified in its reportage on this matter, irrespective of the legitimacy of the document in question.
....
Also, the Sunday Independent did not portray Setou as guilty (regarding his argument of being innocent until found guilty). The story says that he was being “investigated” for “allegedly” manipulating contracts. This is a far cry from being portrayed as guilty.

Now for the last issue: How reasonable and fair did the newspaper treat the document that it used?

The document contains this sentence: “I (Dixon) have no evidence to support any of the allegations made against Mr. Setou for any wrong doing as an employee of the NCR.”
It would have been better if the story referred to this sentence. However, the story is not about what Dixon has found, it is rather about the allegations that led to the investigation by the Public Protector and the Hawks.


Finding
The complaint is dismissed in its entirety.

Sanction
There is no sanction.
 ....

Johan Retief
Deputy Press Ombudsman

If you would like to read the original press council report head over to:
http://www.presscouncil.org.za/pages/posts/peter-setou-vs.-sunday-independent263.php

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