Seta slammed for misuse of state funds

TOP managers of the Public Service Sector Education and Training Authority have failed to explain to Parliament why they paid consultants almost R1-million for a probe that could have been done by a government body at a cheaper cost.

Appearing before the standing committee on public accounts (Scopa) yesterday, CEO of the PSETA, Shamira Huluman, sparked the fury of MPs when she revealed her entity had paid more than R800,000 in 2010 to auditing firm PricewaterhouseCoopers to conduct an investigation that failed to crack financial irregularities at the Seta.

She said the Special Investigating Unit could have done the job for a fraction of the price.

The PSETA was set up in March 2000 to lead the implementation of the national skills development strategy in the civil service but its financial books have long been a shambles.

It was put under administration in 2010 and slapped with a disclaimer - the worst audit opinion by the auditor-general for the 2010-2011 financial year because of a litany of questionable transactions during that period.

ANC MP Roy Ainsely slammed Huluman, saying it did not make financial sense for her to involve consultants who did not have powers of subpoena in an investigation related to the mismanagement of public money.

Ainsley said: "R800,000 for what? To tell you at the end of the day 'that sorry, we have no power to subpoena'? You should have known that in advance, it's highly irregular."

Huluman responded by saying the decision had been taken by her predecessors in 2007 and admitted it was ill-advised.

  • At the same time Kenny Govendor, the deputy director-General of the Department of Public Services, to which the PSETA reports, told Scopa that an official was serving a prison term stemming from fraudulent activities amounting to more than R10.8-million.

But Govendor was dumbfounded when he could not explain why action had not been taken against two officials transferred from the PSETA to his department -who are implicated in allegations of fraud involving R900,000.

He said he was not in a position to provide clarity because he did not have the facts with him, only to draw an angry response from Scopa chairman Themba Godi.

"If you come here without the facts, then what's the point of being here if you don't have the details of something very directly related to Seta that we are engaging here today."

The SIU is probing corruption in the PSETA and many other similar institutions, following a proclamation by President Jacob Zuma. Higher Education and Training Minister Blade Nzimande said managers were using such institutions as get-rich-quick schemes.