Johannesburg - The Department of Police wasted more than R45 million in one year on meals and accommodation alone, while racking up R150m in irregular and wasteful expenditure over five years, Police Minister Nkosinathi Nhleko has revealed.
Most, if not all, the fruitless, wasteful and irregular expenditure happened under former police minister Nathi Mthethwa, who is now minister of arts and culture.
Nhleko’s comments came as news emerged that 70 police officers had been dismissed in the past six months for corruption, attempted murder, armed robbery, defeating the ends of justice, assault and other charges in Gauteng alone.
In April, it was revealed that 173 police officers in KwaZulu-Natal had criminal pasts, including rape and murder, and would be fired.
Since 2009, the national Police Department had instituted 238 disciplinary cases against officials responsible for some of the irregular and wasteful expenditure.
During 2010/11 the department spent R11m irregularly on “contractors, artists and performers”.
Nhleko said R45 212 787.50 was spent irregularly on “accommodation and meals” in one year alone, while a further R872 572 was spent on “incorrect payments” and R259 563 on “dormant” fuel cards.
In a written reply to the DA’s Joe McGluwa, Nhleko said the main reason for the waste of public funds was because the “procurement prescripts were not technically complied with”. However, the department had received the goods or services.
He said for fruitless and wasteful expenditure a “liability investigation is conducted” to determine whether the money was recoverable or not.
“No recoveries took place for irregular expenditure due to the fact that value was received to the satisfaction of the department with the procurement of the goods or services; however, disciplinary steps, where appropriate, were instituted against the officials whose actions resulted in irregular expenditure,” said Nhleko.
The DA’s spokeswoman on the police, Dianne Kohler Barnard, said she would write to the chairman of the police oversight committee, Francois Beukman, to “summon” Nhleko, to explain what would be done to curb the “flagrant” misuse of public funds.
“This latest revelation reflects the complete disregard that the Department of Police has repeatedly displayed for responsible use of public funds. The department cannot afford to waste public funds when so many of our policemen and women face life-threatening danger on a daily basis without resources allowing them to do their jobs to the best of their ability,” she said.
Kohler Barnard said it was unclear what more “evidence” President Jacob Zuma needed before he demanded a comprehensive turnaround strategy for the police.
“In the absence of this leadership, the portfolio committee must take the lead and ensure that the new minister does not allow this to happen again,” she said.
Gauteng provincial spokesman Brigadier Neville Malila said the 70 officers had been dismissed after having been found guilty of misconduct.
“This is an indication that SAPS is serious about getting rid of rotten police officials,” he said.
Malila warned: “Many of those that have been dismissed are facing criminal charges and are still appearing in various courts.”
Commenting, Kohler Barnard, said: “Why are we not being careful about who gets into the police service? It does seem to me that there is a steep increase in police criminality.”
She said this was the first thing national police commissioner General Riah Phiyega should look at.
“We must get rid of corrupt cops or those who are involved in criminal activities,” Kohler Barnard said.
In April, then minister Mthethwa said the dismissals of the 173 officers in KZN came after a nationwide audit which had identified 1 448 officers with criminal records.
He said they were in the process of removing 1 017 officers nationally while 67 had already left the service. Their crimes had ranged from murder, rape and armed assaults to theft.
Last year, Mthethwa told Parliament that the process to remove criminal officers from the service had to follow the correct labour and legal processes.
- The Mercury