ALLEGATIONS of misappropriation of funds against Cope's deputy president Mbhazima Shilowa have created a rift within the party's leadership.

Yesterday Cope's leader in Parliament Mvume Dandala and general secretary Charlotte Lobe came out against the call by party president Mosioua Lekota for a forensic audit of the party's parliamentary finances.

On Wednesday Lekota accused Shilowa of having failed to account for the R20million allocated to the party by the Independent Electoral Commission. He also accused Shilowa of trying to cover up his tracks.

In a joint statement Dandala and Lobe defended Shilowa and dismissed Lekota's claims. They claimed the party's congress working committee (CWC) was aware of the concern over parliamentary funds. They say audited financial statements - which will be made available to all structures - are being prepared.

"It is also unfortunate that these matters - implicating the chief whip (Shilowa) as an accounting officer, are being raised when he is abroad, unable to speak for himself," Lobe said.

"The Congress of the People is unwavering in its commitment to clean governance both in and out of Cope. If this were not the case, we would not be here," said Dandala.

Lekota produced documents accusing Shilowa of trying to cover up the matter by trying to get an auditor to agree that he had been contracted to audit the party's parliamentary books in June last year - when in fact he had first been approached by Shilowa only this year.

The documents also declared that Shilowa awarded a R580000 contract to a company owned by Cope Youth Movement secretary Malusi Booi - who is known to be his key campaigner in the race for the party's new leadership to be elected at a national conference next month.

"C-Yoyo Logistics" is 100percent owned by Booi.

An invoice states that R170000 was spent on "branded carpets", R166000 on picture frames and R32000 on leather couches

The cash-strapped party spent a further R137000 on banners; gold-plated nameplates and coffee tables.

Lekota also alleged that the recent negative campaigns against him were part of a move to remove him - to cover up the alleged irregularities.

He also indicated to that he intended to call for a CNC meeting tomorrow to deal directly with Shilowa's alleged shenanigans.

However, Lobbe said yesterday the CNC would meet on Sunday, as previously planned. This is when a motion of no-confidence is expected to be passed against Lekota.

Recently Lekota suffered a major political blow when Cope's youth wing nominated Shilowa as their preferred presidential candidate. It accused Lekota of having antagonised potential funders and supporters because of his abrasive leadership style.