pay back, officials told

MPUMALANGA government officials who made millions of rands doing business with their own departments will have to pay back the money.

This was said by select committee on public accounts (Scopa) chairperson Fish Mahlalela on Friday.

This after it emerged that none of the 573 public servants who used their positions to obtain R120million worth of government contracts had been disciplined.

The money involves tenders awarded between April 1 2005 and March 31 2007.

"This money belongs to the government and must be brought back," Mahlalela said.

He also said "the majority of these officials do not have approval to perform other remunerative work outside public service".

He ordered that all the approvals allowing some officials to do business with the government be withdrawn with immediate effect.

Mahlalela's reaction was based on the auditor-general's report, which revealed that the extent of business done by employee or spouse-related companies in the province amounted to more than R120million.

The education and health departments have been singled out as having high numbers of officials doing businesses with their own departments.

On Friday the two departments, as well as roads and transport, appeared before Scopa, where they were asked to explain their failure to act against the implicated officials.

Education department head Mahlasedi Mhlabane said no action was taken against any of the officials in her department because "we did not have a detailed list of implicated officials".

But Martin Mokonyama, roads and transport department head, said their internal unit would investigate the matter and make recommendations.

Johnson Mahlangu, head of the health department, where officials shared R11517839 in tenders, said they did not conduct any investigations because "it was not part of the auditor-general's scope".