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Scopa will probe payment to lawyers

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Johannesburg - The North West standing committee on public accounts (Scopa) will investigate how a law firm was paid over R13-million, the provincial legislature said on Thursday.

Spokesperson Namhla Luhabe said former finance MEC Louisa Mabe, current MEC Paul Sebegoe, and the acting head of the department Geo Paul failed to give the committee a clear account of procurement processes followed in appointing a law firm.

Morake Attorneys has been paid over R13-million to organise a disciplinary hearing of the suspended head of department, Johannes Mohlala. He was suspended in July 2011 for, among other things, lack of compliance with instructions from his superiors.

Luhabe said Sebegoe presented to the committee, saying Morake Attorneys had been paid R15.4-million for handling the hearing of Mohlala, the chief financial officer, Harrieta Kasirivu and the chief director, Peter Mogoane.

“The cases of the latter two have been finalised but both are appealing. Morake Attorneys have been paid R13,332,449.95 for the disciplinary hearings of the three and was also paid R2,126,930.33, for other legal matters by the same department.”

The acting head, Geo Paul, could not give the committee satisfactory answers when asked how Morake Attorneys were appointed, Luhabe said.

Morake Attorneys's fee was about five times higher than that of its counterparts.

Committee chairperson Hlomane Chauke was expected to meet premier Thandi Modise next week.

Representatives of the Public Protector, the Hawks and the public service commissioner were expected to take part in the meeting to discuss how an investigation should unfold.

North West premier Thandi Modise said no stone will be left unturned in investigating allegations of irregularities in the appointment of a law firm conducting hearings against Johannes Mohlala. “We will do everything in our power to get to the bottom of the matter in order to protect the state from embarrassment. No person was sworn into the executive council to defraud the government system,” Modise said.

Scopa had established that tender processes were flouted in the appointment of Morake Attorneys from Rustenburg as no tender process was followed as required by the Public Finance Management Act for amounts in excess of R500 000.

Provincial spokesman Lesiba Moses Kgwele said the department of finance confirmed that R7-million had thus far been paid to the law-firm in the ongoing matter between itself and Motlhala and not R13-million as reported earlier.

“The chief financial officer and chief director who had authorised payments have since been sacked but have appealed their dismissal.” - Sapa


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