MEC, HOD ordered to pay back millions

POLOKWANE – Mokaba-Phukwana and Du Plessis are to pay back more than R1,63 and R1,15 million respectively.

About two years ago a complaint was registered with the Office of the Public Protector (PP) against Mokaba-Phukwana and Du Plessis for authorising a payment of certain amounts of monies to Master of Public Administration (MPA) investigators.

The complaint was that the appointment of MPA investigators by the then MEC to conduct investigations on irregularities in the department was in itself irregular and was done in violation of the prescripts of the Public Finance Management Act and the Executive Members’ Ethics Act.

According to a media release issued by the Office of the Premier, the PP found against both the MEC and the HOD and ordered that action be taken against the two. The PP further recommended that members of the Provincial Executive be inducted in the ethos of good governance and ethical leadership.

“Accordingly, in line with the PP’s recommendations, both the MEC and HOD were subjected to a disciplinary hearing where I reprimanded the MEC and gave the HOD a final written warning, this after considering their representations,” the statement from the Premier’s Office reads, continuing: “Further to this, I have demanded that both parties repay the exact amount of irregular expenditure as determined by both the National and Provincial Treasury to this end, MEC Mokaba-Phukwana was ordered to pay the amount of R1 638 728 while HOD Du Plessis was ordered to pay back the amount of R1 154 432 within 14 days of receipt of their notices to pay.”

Consistent with the PP’s recommendations, members of the Provincial Executive have already been subjected to a workshop presented by the National Treasury on the subject of good governance and ethical leadership.

According to the statement, the Premier’s Office appreciates the work of the PP and will continue working with her office and other state institutions to ensure good governance and accountable administration.

Both the HOD and MEC have on previous occasions stated their intention to have the PP’s report taken on review. According to information this might not be done before September, when the issue may be taken on review before the High Court.

The Provincial Leader of the the Democratic Alliance (DA), Jacques Smalle, in the meantime expressed his concern about the lackadaisical and soft-handed approach the premier took on the long-outstanding matter of Mokaba-Phukwana.

“In 2014 MEC Mokaba-Phukwana violated the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA) and the Executive Members Ethics Act by the irregular awarding of a tender and payment of monies to MPA investigators in excess of R4 million, which the PP ordered to be fully recovered. Today, four months after the PP released the report into MEC Phukwana, Premier Stanley Mathabatha reprimanded the MEC and ordered her to pay R1 638 728 within 14 days in line with the PP’s remedial action,” Smalle said.

Smalle added the PP required the full amount to be recovered, and the MEC has been instructed to only pay back around one third.

“On 2 February 2017 the PP found that the MEC did not have the legal authority to award a contract to any company since that power vests in the HOD as the accounting officer in terms of Section 38 of the PFMA. The MEC’s conduct is incongruent with the Executive Members Ethics Act. Section 133(3)(a)of the Constitution requires members of the executive council of a province to act in accordance with the Constitution and, if a provincial Constitution has been passed for the province, also that Constitution. In December 2016 the DA referred the MEC to the Limpopo Ethics Committee, yet to date the committee has not sat to investigate the MEC nor has it taken any action against her.”

Smalle said the premier should have acted upon the release of the public protector’s report and dismissed the MEC with immediate effect from her office, while also recovering the full amount of public money that was sent down the drain.

“The DA believes that all Executive Members should at all times be held to the highest standards of good governance and be held accountable,” Smalle said.

“We will continue to hold the MEC to full account, and we will push for the Legislature Ethics Committee to begin its investigation and hearing into the MEC immediately.”

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Nelie Erasmus

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