Airport head must repay R25m

Selby Makgotho

Selby Makgotho

Ben Mehale, the suspended head of the Polokwane International Airport, has been ordered to repay the more than R25million that went missing during the International Transport Convention.

The standing committee on public accounts (Scopa) found that there was never a budget for the ITC, which took place in Polokwane in May last year.

Mehale, who was the head of the Roads and Transport Department at the time, later took the R25million from the road maintenance section and other service delivery projects for the department to run the event.

Scopa in Limpopo discovered that Mehale lied to Premier Sello Moloto and his cabinet, leading them to believe that the R25 million had been budgeted for when this was not the case.

Scopa's report states that parliament should recover the money from Mehale and open criminal charges against him.

The report will be tabled in the legislature chambers in Lebowakgomo today.

The report also recommends that Mehale be banned from the public service and that he is not fit to lead a public institution.

Mehale, his private secretary Pinky Mawasha and the general manager responsible for operations, Marcus Mthombenihas, have all been suspended from their operations at the airport. The trio were suspended after a forensic audit report into the activities of the airport.

Mehale was suspended from his responsibilities as the managing director of the airport after the irregularities came to light.

Shortly after his suspension, Mehale wrote to the airport, asking that he be bought out with a staggering R1,6 million as a "golden handshake".

The airport, however, refused the request.

Stan Motimele, roads and transport MEC, is also expected to be hauled over the coals because the irregularities happened under his nose.

Motimele responded to Mehale's irregularities by appointing Johannesburg-based SD Consulting to run parallel investigations.

SD Consulting recommended criminal and civil action against Mehale and other high-ranking officials from the Roads and Transport Department.

Motimele never acted on the report until it found its way to the media.