Scopa probe finds irregularities in the spending of festival funds

Frank Maponya

Frank Maponya

The standing committee on public accounts (Scopa) in Limpopo has called for criminal charges to be brought against officials who defrauded or misused assets of the Melting Pot Cultural Festival.

The recommendation follows the committee's findings that the 2002 festival had involved irregularities.

Scopa was probing allegations that tenders relating to the festival were awarded without following proper procedures.

One of Scopa's findings was that no supporting documents could be provided for expenses amounting to R423373,90.

Scopa has ruled that officials who were responsible for awarding the tenders be made to repay the money.

In February 2002, the executive council, at the request of the provincial department of sports, arts and culture, granted permission to the department to operate a trust account to administer the festival.

The account was duly registered on November 14 last year and three officials from the department were appointed as trustees.

An entity known as Greenfields was entrusted with project management on behalf of the trust.

Scopa has found that the trustees did not perform their duties as required by the Deed of Trust, and that the affairs of the trust were conducted by various officials within the department.

It was also found that the trust failed to adhere to conditions laid down by the provincial treasury, and that it was riddled with internal control weaknesses.

Proper accounting records were not kept and no cash books or bank reconciliations were made available for audit purposes, read the Scopa report.

The auditors were also not furnished with the necessary information to enable them to finalise an audit of the trust.

The report also pointed out that an amount of R373140 was merely indicated as a cash withdrawal by the bankers of the trust, Standard Bank.

An expenditure policy was non-existent. There were no contracts signed between the trust and artists who were to perform at the festival, said the Scopa report, which pointed out that this was a requirement in terms of section 13 of the Deed of Trust.

There was also no contract between Greenfields and the trust in respect of project management, and that an amount of R451134 paid to Greenfields could not be verified due to lack of valid supporting documentation.

Scopa further recommended that the trust be dissolved and criminal proceedings be instituted against officials who had either defrauded or misused the assets of the trust.

It has also recommended that a forensic audit on all matters relating to the Melting Pot Festival be undertaken.

The department of sports, arts and culture is expected to submit a report on the festival to Scopa before December 31.