Mkhwebane wants SIU to help recover lost Mandela funeral funds

Busisiwe Mkhwebane.
Busisiwe Mkhwebane.
Image: Gallo Images / City Press / Jaco Marais

Public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane has confirmed that Eastern Cape premier Phumulo Masualle was among those who benefited improperly from Nelson Mandela’s funeral.

In a damning 300-page report‚ Mkhwebane has laid bare the details of how provincial and municipal officials went on a spending spree with money initially allocated for development in one of South Africa’s poorest provinces.

Nelson Mandela died on December 5‚ 2013‚ opening the floodgates in the province for officials to spend R330-million diverted from the infrastructure development grant.

Mkhwebane said it was shocking that funds were paid‚ at inflated rates‚ to suppliers without verification of delivery of services or goods.

According to the report‚ an amount of R250‚000 was irregularly transferred by the provincial treasury into the personal account of Masualle‚ who was finance MEC at the time.

Almost R6-million was paid to Victory Ticket 750 cc for the transportation of mourners to Mandela’s memorial service‚ but the actual number of people ferried could not be verified.

The public protector said that some of the payments‚ in one instance R10-million‚ were approved over the phone on direct instructions from the ANC and paid to suppliers.

Mkhwebane’s report also mentions t-shirts‚ at an exorbitant cost of more than R300 each‚ delivered to a taxi rank.

She noted that these funds‚ channelled to the Eastern Cape Development Corporation by the Eastern Cape provincial treasury‚ were meant for the provision of running water‚ electricity‚ sanitation‚ ablution facilities‚ replacement of mud schools and refurbishment of hospitals.

Mkhwebane said weaknesses – such as the lack of a proper coordinated plan for state funerals‚ the lack of an operational centre where daily meetings could be held‚ and the fact that the funeral was regarded as an emergency – resulted in massive unauthorised‚ irregular‚ fruitless and wasteful expenditure.

“This weakness was explored and capitalised upon by some service providers [who] took advantage of the situation and inflated prices. Some submitted invoices and were paid for goods and services‚ the delivery of which was not or could not be verified‚” she said.

Mkhwebane has directed finance minister Malusi Gigaba to request President Jacob Zuma to make a proclamation that the corruption-busting Special Investigation Unit investigate:

• Unlawful appropriation or expenditure of public money;

• Unlawful‚ irregular or unapproved acquisitive acts‚ transactions‚ measures or practices;

• Intentional or negligent loss of public money by organs of state; with a view to instituting civil action for the recovery of the lost funds.

A criminal investigation into the money spent on the funeral led to the arrest of a number of politicians and businesspeople‚ including former Buffalo City Metropolitan (BCM) municipality mayor Zukiswa Ncitha‚ former deputy mayor Temba Tinta‚ former council speaker Luleka Simon-Ndzele‚ councillor Sindiswa Gomba‚ senior BCM official Ondela Mahlangu‚ businesswoman Viwe Vazi and businessman Dean Fanoe.

Their cases have yet to be finalised.

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