21 February 2013

South Africa: President Zuma Must Act On Limpopo Public Works Finance Collapse

press release

Yesterday Minister of Public Works Thulas Nxesi told the Standing Committee on Public Accounts that financial systems in the Limpopo Public Works Department had "collapsed".

This was revealed after the first phase of the investigation into 1 234 infrastructure projects undertaken by the Limpopo department was presented to the committee.

The first report - containing details of tenders awarded for the upgrade of 15 schools - reveals a total of just over R15.2 million in variation amounts. This means that contractors across the 15 projects were paid R15 million more than the initial cost of the tender, effectively bypassing Public Finance Management Act (PFMA) procedures to inflate figures to their advantage.

Although the provincial department is under administration, Minister Nxesi stated that he could not suspend or fire the Head of the Department under section 100 of the Constitution, which allows for national government to intervene in provincial matters. Only the Premier of the province has the authority to do so. Yet Limpopo Premier Cassel Mathale has failed to take any action so far.

In the meantime officials responsible for the looting of state funds are still employed in the same positions and are free to continue with their misdeeds.

I will therefore write to President Jacob Zuma, requesting him to intervene and call on Premier Cassel Mathale to suspend all the implicated officials at the provincial public works department.

We cannot conduct a successful investigation into the matter while those responsible for the irregular tenders are still functioning within the structures of the department.

If the initial report presented by Minister Nxesi is anything to go by, then this is merely the tip of the iceberg. SCOPA will be meeting with the national Public Works Department and with the Special Investigating Unit to discuss the matter further and ensure that the appropriate action is taken.

We cannot allow this abuse of public funds to continue. If Premier Mathale will not take action on his own accord, President Zuma must intervene. He needs to show that he is serious about reversing the mismanagement in Limpopo and acting against those responsible.

Dion George, SCOPA Standing Committee on Public Accounts

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