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Cape Town - Senior officials in Premier Helen Zille’s office were grilled on Wednesday in the Western Cape legislature during a lively debate on the employment of consultants, movable assets going missing and irregular expenditure.
The Department of the Premier appeared before the province’s standing committee on public accounts to present its annual report.
Leading the charge, the ANC’s Max Ozinsky quizzed Zille over issues of internal controls, leadership and nonsense targets.
The auditor-general found in his report into the premier’s department that “management did not ensure that sufficient and appropriate monitoring controls were in place to ensure the accuracy, validity and completeness of reported performance in the annual performance report”.
Zille told Ozinsky: “I would like to know what indicators and what percentage of which indicators.”
Ozinsky took this as an indication that she was not up to speed on her own department.
“Premier, are you saying that you are seeing this thing for the first time, because I am sure I’ve seen it in the management report. You must answer this question, not me,” he said.
Ozinsky went a step further saying, “your head of department signed off on this report and you don’t know what’s in the report”.
Their exchange became so intense that Ozinsky at one point asked the chairman to protect him against interference from Zille.
“I don’t know what this battle is here that she’s fighting,” Ozinsky said.
And Ozinsky harangued senior officials over the controversial R20 million communications contract awarded to Hip Hop Media in 2007.
“Did you recover any money yet, from Hip Hop?” Ozinsky asked.
But the director-general, Brent Gerber, said he was not “aware of any finding made on the recovery of funds”.
“So there was no corruption?” Ozinsky asked.
Gerber said an official’s conduct in the matter had been reported to the police but the process of allocating the tender was above board.
ANC MPL Vuyiwe Hani expressed concern about the expenditure increase of 56 percent on consultants, contractors and special advisers which amounted to over R52.1m, from R33.4m in the previous financial year.
Earlier in the day, Zille and her team faced a three-hour grilling by the provincial standing committee on the premier, gender, disabled and youth.
The committee wanted clarity about movable assets, including heritage assets, machinery and equipment valued at over R2.1m going missing from the asset register of the Department of the Premier.
According to the department’s annual report 130 assets were not found during the stock-take and the cases are still under investigation.
Departmental officials explained that in many instances these assets had merely been misplaced.
Lynne Brown, ANC MPL and leader of the opposition in the legislature, questioned the amount of money spent on branding.
Zille said people often had a false impression of branding as a slogan or a logo. “For us, Better Together, goes far beyond that, it’s an actual culture that we’re trying to develop in government,” she said.