KZN officials to face the heat

OPPOSITION parties in KwaZulu-Natal have welcomed the ANC-led provincial government's announcement that more than 150 senior government officials will face prosecution for defrauding the department of social development funds.

Cope said it was gratified by the action taken by the KZN MEC for social development Meshack Radebe and KZN MEC for finance Ina Cronjé to commission a forensic investigation into the government-funded projects.

The review, conducted by the Independent Development Trust, investigated 127 government-funded projects and uncovered widespread financial mismanagement and fraud.

"Cope is especially gratified that the ANC saw fit to take opposition parties into its confidence with regard to this investigation," Cope KZN MPL Lucky Gabela said.

"This signals a new openness and transparency in government," he said.

The DA said it was pleased that action was finally being taken on this matter.

"Our concern, however, is that to date only 10 criminal charges, less than 10 of the total recommended, have been instituted and that no departmental suspensions have yet taken place," DA caucus leader in the provincial legislature John Steenhuisen said.

"While the DA is aware that police investigations take time, the longer it takes to finalise formal charges the less likely the chances of a successful prosecution."

He said the party would monitor the progress of the investigation and ensure that all those held responsible were prosecuted.

The party, he said, would also see to it that the proposed finalisation date of the probe (end of March) was adhered to.

"The social development department is going to have to take a very hard look at how it is operating and why the monitoring and control mechanisms and checks and balances were not in place to prevent these events from occurring," Steenhuisen said.