Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane has recommended President Jacob Zuma task the Special Investigations Unit (SIU) with probing the unlawful, irregular, intentional or negligent expenditure of R300m for memorial services following former President Nelson Mandela’s funeral. A Mail & Guardian Online report notes Mkhwebane found ‘poor planning’ at all levels of government for the funeral. Her recommendations include that the Finance Minister set out guidelines for state funerals and that the National Treasury cost the entire event before funds are released. Eastern Cape government officials, state entities and local government were implicated in the mismanagement of funds for the memorial services. The money was spent by the provincial government, Eastern Cape Development Corporation (ECDC), Buffalo City metro, Nelson Mandela Bay metro and King Sabata Dalindyebo district municipalities. Mkhwebane found that ‘money meant for infrastructure and social development in the Eastern Cape, the provision of running water, electricity, sanitation, the replacement of mud schools and the refurbishment of hospitals’ was used to buy t-shirts and to transport mourners, as well as pay for catering at memorial services. Her investigation also uncovered the unauthorised payment of government funds to service providers without supporting documentation and gross overpricing by suppliers who were not on the municipal database. ‘How do you charge R350 for a t-shirt,’ Mkhwebane asked. Mkhwebane asked why officials took instructions from ANC leaders instead of municipal bosses. ‘It’s very concerning where you find an e-mail sent to ECDC told to pay 11 Million by 11 o’clock, and the documents will follow,’ she said. ‘In other instances, even the invoices were written on the letterhead of the ANC. That’s the attitude of saying I’ve got two masters, the ANC and the municipality, forgetting that as an official of government you must perform in terms of the Public Finance Management Act,’ Mkhwebane added.
Provincial treasury head Marion Mbina-Mthembu, has been pinpointed as the source of the impropriety. In the report, Mbina-Mthembu was said to have unlawfully misdirected funds allocated to provincial exco, notes a News24report. ‘The conduct of Mbina-Mthembu in approving and authorising procurement of goods and services relating to the funeral was in violation of the provisions of section 217 of the Constitution… Her conduct was improper and constituted maladministration.’ Mkhwebane also found that the Eastern Cape Parks and Tourism Agency incurred irregular expenditure of R500 000 and fruitless and wasteful expenditure of R970 000. Buffalo City Municipality improperly procured the services of, and paid, service provider Victory Tickets 750 CC almost R6m in public funds to transport mourners to four venues for the memorial service observation. The King Sabata Dalindyebo Municipality incurred unauthorised expenditure in excess of R4.2m and fruitless and wasteful expenditure of R1.4m, she added.
Former ECDC chief financial officer Sandile Sentwa has vowed to contest the findings, says a TimesLIVE report. Sentwa said the matter of the report would be handled by his attorney. ‘ECDC did not procure anything but was paymaster on Treasury instruction. A recommendation to put controls in procurement does not therefore appear to be right. That particular finding will be contested.’He said he had written to the Public Protector without any response on the matter. ‘I have about two months ago written to the Public Protector contesting the finding. She did not respond. I provided documents.’ Former Buffalo City Mayor Zukiswa Ncitha declined to comment. ‘I have not seen the report yet‚ so I cannot comment on something that I do not know anything about‚’ she said.
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