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In what appears to have been a free-for-all looting of the cash-strapped Limpopo Education Department, an official made several fraudulent car allowance claims that saw him paid thousands of rands a month last year.
The department – which went bankrupt in September and failed to order textbooks – paid a Mopani district official R8 000 a month after he claimed to have used his private car for official duties long after the vehicle had been written off in an accident.
Official documents seen by The Star revealed that Valentine Mafafo, an IT technician with the department’s corporate services section, pocketed R32 000 after purportedly using his Ford Fiesta to render services to the taxpayer.
Claiming to have clocked 2 500km a month between October 2011 and January this year, Mafafo got between R7 975 and R8 082.50 a claim at a rate of R3 a kilometre.
According to Mafafo’s log book, he made 20 trips across Mopani in January alone, clocking between 34km and 165km a day.
However, an internal investigation in February found the trips were non-existent and the claims fraudulent.
Compiled by the provincial Education Department’s deputy manager for supply chain, one Mthombeni, the report established that the Ford Fiesta was not even in Mafafo’s possession during the four months in which he claimed to have used it for official duties.
“Records reveal that Mr Mafafo V, who has now been suspended because of different offences other than the fraud he committed, did not have his privately-owned vehicle… We requested to see the kilometre reading of his car after having discovered that the car was no longer in his possession and he refused,” read part of the report.
It said Mafafo later sent one of his colleagues to withdraw the January claim, but it had already been paid out.
The department’s transport and fleet section had no idea which process was followed to settle Mafafo’s claims, Mthombeni added.
Mafafo confirmed that he was under investigation in connection with fraudulent claims, but maintained his innocence.
“For me to comment will be improper because I am an employee of the department and the matter is under investigation. But there is nothing that I have done that is fraudulent. There is no way I can say I travelled to Johannesburg when I was not there.”
Mafafo’s duties entailed rendering IT and network support services to the Mopani education district office, its 24 circuit offices and 732 schools, according to his July 26, 2010 application “for approval to continue to use a privately owned vehicle to executive official duties”.
The application was approved by the department’s former government information technology officer, Mojalefa Lekoto, on August 4, 2010.
The Star reported last week that Lekoto, who has since resigned, spent millions of rands of taxpayers’ money on computers and printers that are gathering dust in hundreds of schools across Limpopo.
The paper also revealed that the department paid a service provider R2 million more than the original tender in the six-month period leading to its bankruptcy.
It was also reported the department spent its R92m student bursary budget willy-nilly, while some officials colluded with lodge owners by inflating prices and paying hundreds of thousands of rands for guests who never slept there.
The looting of the cash-strapped department comes at a time when thousands of pupils in the province have been without textbooks for six months after a private company, EduSolutions, failed to deliver them as part of its R320m contract.
It follows hot on the heels of massive financial mismanagement, maladministration and tender fraud and irregularities uncovered in the department by two forensic auditing companies.
Pat Kgomo, spokesman for the Limpopo Education Department, refused to say whether or not the department would implement the recommendations of the Gobodo forensic report. One of its recommendations was that 64 officials be charged for financial misconduct.
He insisted that the department could not comment on the contents of a report that it did not receive.
The textbook crisis in Limpopo, partly caused by maladministration and financial mismanagement, has caused ructions between Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga, NGOs, teacher unions, parents and opposition parties.
Four task teams, including one appointed by President Jacob Zuma, have been sent in to try to get to the bottom of the raging crisis.