Johannesburg - The North West legislature has set up a sub-committee to probe the procurement processes followed in purchasing a R1.3 million car for premier Thandi Modise, it said on Thursday.
The legislature’s Standing Committee on Provincial Public Accounts (Scopa) condemned the amount spent on the 750i BMW, acknowledging that the economy was under pressure, legislature spokeswoman Namhla Luhabe said in a statement.
“... We are aware that there is still a need to standardise the cost containment prescribed in the Ministerial Handbook, but that should not constitute for the reckless spending used by the executive,” she said.
Scopa held talks on Thursday with public works MEC Raymond Elisha. Afterwards, it asked for a formal written document to ensure transparency and accountability.
It also resolved to investigate the matter to ensure it played its oversight role effectively.
Reacting to reports earlier this week about the purchase of the car, the Democratic Alliance said it was in conflict with austerity plans announced by Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan in his mid-term budget speech.
Modise's spokesman Lesiba Kgwele said on Monday that the car was already on order at the time the measures were announced.
“The decision to purchase the BMW 750i... was taken by the provincial department of public works, roads and transport and was below the 70 percent limit prescribed by the ministerial handbook,” he said.
The value of the car may not exceed 70 percent of the value of the premier's annual salary.
Kgwele said the official car used by Modise's predecessor had exceeded the maximum mileage of 120,000km and had constant mechanical breakdowns, compromising Modise's security.
On Thursday, the legislature said the sub-committee’s investigation would focus on the date the order for purchasing the vehicle was issued, when the vehicle was delivered, how many vehicles had been allocated to the premier's office since 2009 and their status.
The MEC and all staff involved in the procurement process would be interviewed.
It would have to report back to Scopa within two weeks.
On Tuesday, the Association of Public Accounts Committees (Apac) said it found disturbing the disregard shown for the measures announced by Gordhan.
“We call upon law enforcement agencies in provinces to exercise effective oversight and investigate recent media allegations of political leaders buying lavish cars with state funds,” said Apac secretary Hlomane Chauke.
Chauke said all ministers, premiers, MECs, mayors and government departments should heed Gordhan's call to exercise prudence when spending public funds.
“Apac further calls upon on public accounts committees and municipal public accounts committees to leave no stone unturned in their efforts to ensure that public entities comply with minister Gordhan's prescripts.” - Sapa