Heat is on Pule over missing cash

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IO_IOL pic nov15 dina pule sabc0 Independent Newspapers Communications Minister Dina Pule. Photo: Neil Baynes

Pretoria - Pressure on Communications Minister Dina Pule over the nature of her relationship with Khemano group chief executive Phosane Mngqibisa - and the alleged disappearance of sponsorship money intended for the recent ICT Indaba in Cape Town - is expected to mount this week.

Parliament’s watchdog over MPs’ conduct, the joint committee on ethics and members’ interests, is to meet on Wednesday.

Then, further allegations against Pule are expected to come under scrutiny.

Public Protector Thuli Madonsela is to receive a request on Monday from DA MP Mariann Shinn that she embark on a probe.

The ethics committee is expected to decide whether to launch an investigation into a possible conflict of interest involving Pule.

Pule was asked by the committee last month to respond to media reports that Mngqibisa was her romantic partner.

A response was also wanted from Pule over allegations that Mngqibisa had withdrawn millions of rand in sponsorship money from an account held by the event’s organiser, Carol Bouwer Productions, which had contracted his company to assist with the indaba.

Committee co-chairman ANC MP Ben Turok said on Sunday that Pule had responded by way of an affidavit. This would come before the committee when it meets this week.

Turok would not divulge the contents of the minister’s affidavit.

“We are meeting as a committee on Wednesday,” he said.

At issue for the committee is the nature of the relationship between Pule - whose department funnelled R10m into the indaba - and Mngqibisa.

If her response is deemed unsatisfactory, the committee will be bound to take the matter further.

Meanwhile, Shinn, the DA’s communications spokeswoman, said on Sunday that she would ask the public protector to “urgently consider” investigating the apparent conflict of interest involving Pule.

Shinn first asked Madonsela to investigate six weeks ago.

She said she had been promised a response by the end of July, but she was still waiting.

“I will write to [Madonsela today] requesting her to inform me of her decision,” the MP said on Sunday.

The Sunday Times reported on Sunday that Carol Bouwer Productions had an invoice showing that Christian Louboutin designer shoes worn by Pule to the ICT event had been paid for with money from the sum of nearly R26 million that sponsors had contributed.

“These allegations add to the growing evidence pointing to financial impropriety by Phosane Mngqibisa, the man reputed to be romantically linked to Minister Pule,” Shinn said.

Pule responded to the initial revelations about her alleged relationship with Mngqibisa - and the alleged misuse of sponsors’ funds - by asking the auditor-general to investigate.

Later, Pule said the auditor-general had investigated and found that “all was good”.

However, Shinn said she had established that the auditor-general’s office limited its probe to finding out whether the R10m allocated to the event by Pule’s department was above board.

“I was informed (by the auditor-general) that he was specifically not looking at any conflict of interest issues,” Shinn said.

“As these funds were solicited by, and paid to, a private firm that was contracted by the Department of Communications, the matter cannot be investigated by the auditor-general, nor can it be subjected to public scrutiny.

“I trust the public protector will take note of the latest revelations in the ICT indaba saga and make an announcement soon as to whether she will institute an investigation.”

Madonsela initially said that she would await the conclusion of the auditor-general’s probe.

Attempts to contact Mngqibisa were unsuccessful. Pule’s spokesman, Siyabulela Qoza, was approached for the minister’s comment, but it had not been received by the time of going to print.

Pretoria News


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