Pay up or else

Selby Makgotho

Selby Makgotho

Limpopo's Roads and Transport Department has charged its former head, Ben Mehale, with fraud in a bid to recover R25,5million he allegedly spent irregularly.

The charge follows a report by the Limpopo standing committee on public accounts (Scopa) that recommended that Mehale be made to repay the money.

The money was spent by the Roads and Transport Department on hosting the International Transport Convention in Polokwane in 2005. Mehale was was then the head of the department.

Scopa said Mehale misled the provincial government by claiming that the convention would bring in money for the province - in fact, it cost the taxpayers R25,5 million.

Senior Superintendent Motlafela Mojapelo, a spokesman for the Limpopo provincial police, yesterday confirmed that Limpopo's Roads and Transport Department had laid a charge of fraud against Mehale and that the police's serious economic offences unit was investigating.

Other high-ranking officials of the department will also be charged.

Mabel Makibelo, head of the department, said the department was finalising misconduct charges against officials fingered in an auditors' report. She said they would be charged before the end of this week.

Makibelo said preliminary investigations indicated that the officials had acted in contravention of the Public Finance Management Act.

Mehale was appointed managing director of the Limpopo Airport after a fallout with the Department of Roads and Transport. But the airport suspended him for spending R28million that had not been not budgeted for.

The chairman of the airport's board, Laduma Thembe, said Mehale was hauled before the airport's disciplinary hearing last month to account for the expenditure.

He said the hearing would be finalised next month.