Presidency grilled for over-spending
PARLIAMENT'S finance watchdog committee, the standing committee on public accounts, Scopa, has refused to condone the Presidency's unauthorised expenditure of more than R28-million.
Appearing before Scopa the directors of governance and administration in the national treasury, Matshepo Maidi and George Tembo, were yesterday at pains to explain to MPs why they had recommended that Parliament approve the Presidency's unauthorised expenditure.
They could only argue that unauthorised expenditure had been incurred under "unavoidable circumstances", but MPs simply refused to budge.
The Treasury wants the Presidency's budget for this financial year - 2012-13 - to be reduced by R28-million to pay for the unauthorised spending of 2010-11.
When asked for a detailed breakdown, Maidi said the R28-million was spent on the procurement of goods and services such as legal fees at R11.4-million, communications services at R7.5-million, additional staff at almost R1-million and advertising over R500,000.
Maidi also argued that some of the money had been used to finance the unavoidable and frequent overseas travel of Presidency staff.
But Scopa chairman Themba Godi was having none of it and remained adamant that the expenditure could have been avoided with proper planning.
He said the committee would finalise its position on the matter once it has been furnished with further particulars.
"I think we are making heavy weather of what was supposed to be a very simple process, because from your breakdown can we say all those items were unavoidable?" he said.
Maidi responded: "Chair, not all of them are unavoidable."
DA MP Dion George also weighed in, saying there was no "presidency in the world that had a bottomless pit of money".
"The president is very busy, obviously, but we do know that he travels and that the department has an idea of what he has to do during the year, so it could possibly sharpen its pencil and be more accurate in its budgeting," he said.
Also in the firing line, was the Department of Women, Children, and People with Disabilities, which is also located within the Presidency.
The department incurred an unauthorised expenditure of almost R4-million in 2010-11, after undertaking "mandatory overseas trips" including one when minister Lulu Xingwana led a 49-member delegation to a UN gender summit in New York where they stayed at the five star Ritz-Carlton hotel.
Treasury is also asking Scopa to condone the expenditure.