25 January 2013

South Africa: Irregularities to Be Investigated, Says Premier

Pretoria — North West Premier Thandi Modise has vowed that no stone will be left unturned in the investigation of allegations of irregularities in the appointment of a law firm that is conducting hearings against a suspended head of department.

"We will do everything in our power to get to the bottom of the matter in order to protect the state from embarrassment. No person was sworn into the Executive Council to defraud the government system," said the Premier in a statement on Thursday.

She was speaking to the Select Committee on Public Accounts (Scopa) in the Provincial Legislature during its extraordinary sitting in Mmabatho.

Johannes Mohlala, the head of department in the provincial Department of Finance, had been suspended in 2011.

Law firm Morake Attorneys from Rustenburg had been paid R7 million to organise a disciplinary hearing for the suspended head of department.

"The Department of Finance confirmed that R7 million has thus far been paid to the law-firm in the on-going matter between itself and the suspended head of department and not R13 million as reported in the media," said the provincial government.

Tender processes in the appointment of the law firm had been flouted. Scopa had established that tender processes were flouted in the appointment of the law firm as no tender process was followed as required by the Public Finance Management Act for amounts in excess of R500 000.

The provincial government added that the chief financial officer and chief director at the department who had authorised payments have since been dismissed but have appealed their dismissal.

The premier said that her office had taken members of the executive council as well as head of departments through capacity building programmes on what is their mandate and functions.

In addition to investigating whether there was any conflict of interest, Modise committed to also investigate reasons for Mohlala's suspension and the rationale for outsourcing the recording system that was used during his hearing.

A follow up meeting between the Premier, Speaker of the Legislature, Chairperson of Scopa and the Auditor General will be held in due course to determine a way-forward.

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