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The R28m jazz festival that never was

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Durban - The Special Investigating Unit (SIU) has been called in to probe KwaZulu-Natal’s spending of R28 million on a jazz festival that never took place.

The SIU would also investigate funding provided for the “Commemorating Prisoners of War on St Helena” event, funding to the KwaZulu-Natal Sharks Board and the Treasury’s appointment of - and payments to - a service provider for the Municipal Infrastructure Intervention Programme.

On Thursday, President Jacob Zuma issued a proclamation authorising the investigations by the SIU.

The KwaZulu-Natal Treasury, which is responsible for the allocation of funds from departments, welcomed the probe.

It said the investigation would assist the “ongoing fight against corruption in KwaZulu-Natal”.

As the custodian of the province’s finances, the Treasury would ultimately be liable for financial irregularities.

A statement issued by the Presidency said the investigation would cover:

* The Treasury’s appointment of a service provider to its Municipal Infrastructure Crack Team to provide services for the Municipal Infrastructure Intervention Programme, and payments made to this service provider that were not fair, competitive, transparent, equitable, cost-effective and/or not according to legislation;

* Unauthorised, irregular or fruitless and wasteful expenditure incurred by the Treasury over funding of the Commemorating Prisoners of War on St Helena event, the Durban International North Sea Jazz Festival and the KwaZulu-Natal Sharks Board.

Presidential spokesman Mac Maharaj could not elaborate on the investigation or provide details of what aspects of the highlighted areas were suspected of being irregular or unauthorised.

The investigation of the funding of the jazz festival, however, is believed to have arisen from the payment of R28m by the Department of Economic Development and Tourism for the 2013 festival that was cancelled after a contractual issue. The promoters made off with R16.9m.

A forensic investigation was launched and the department ordered that all spending be halted and the remaining R11m be refunded. Whether this was achieved is not known as the department would not divulge this on Thursday.

“We have noted the probe and at this stage have not been approached to assist with the investigation. And so we cannot comment on it,” said spokesman Siyabonga Maphumulo.

Ndabezinhle Sibiya, spokesman for Premier Senzo Mchunu’s office, which organised the Commemorating Prisoners of War on St Helena event, also said the office could not comment.

The commemoration was held in Pietermaritzburg in April. A multicultural event took place at Woodburn Stadium.

Mchunu addressed the crowd and called on people to unite and commemorate the prisoners of war.

The chief executive of the KZN Sharks Board, Mthokozisi Radebe, was stunned to hear of the investigation, and said he did not know of any issues concerning its funding from the Treasury.

Treasury spokesman Ntokozo Maphisa said the provincial Treasury’s internal audit unit had already commissioned independent service providers to investigate alleged irregular procurement and/or expenditure relating to the Infrastructure Crack Team and the North Sea Jazz Festival.

“So too has the provincial Treasury referred these matters to the South African Police Service for criminal investigations. Both the criminal and independent forensic investigations are at an advanced stage. The provincial Treasury will assist the SIU in every way possible as, like the SIU, it is determined to root out corruption in the province,” he said.

Mchunu welcomed Zuma’s proclamation and said he hoped the results of the investigation would be made public or at least be presented to the provincial legislature.

The Mercury


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