Puzzle of multiple pay to same account-holders

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CHESTER MAKANA

THE LIMPOPO standing committee on public accounts (Scopa) has asked the office of the Auditor-General to investigate “dubious” Limpopo Education Department transactions paid to various companies with similar bank accounts.

The committee wants to satisfy itself over a transaction worth more than R30 million channelled to a company which the department failed to name when it appeared before public hearings on Monday.

The department was re-appearing before the committee after it was summoned back to explain R135m in irregular expenditure and R95m in wasteful and fruitless expenditure for the financial year ended March.

This was after the department failed to convince the committee that the transactions were made to a prime supplier by a small, medium, and micro enterprise (SMME).

According to department documents that The Star has seen, one company was paid more than R217m under 26 six different company names.

A second one was paid R57m, while a third account received a transfer of more than R7m for five companies sharing a similar account.

Proof of payment documents indicate that funds were paid to one account holder 25 times.

However, the names of the companies were different, leaving members with more questions than answers.

There were other instances where an account received payment six times to the tune of R3m.

Surprisingly, R1.4m was transferred to an account shared by Rainbow Independent School and Rainbow Combined School, which also shared a similar address in Lenyenye.

These were payments on the provision of goods and services procured in contravention of the Public Finance Management Act as this money had had no allocation in the budgets.

In his report, Auditor-General Terence Nombembe raises concerns over the department spending outside its mandate.

The committee was also angered by the R6m spent on the training of traditional leaders for peer education and HIV and Aids programmes, saying this was not the department’s mandate.

It also needed a business plan for the project and agreements signed with service providers.

Committee chairman Derrick Ngobeni said they wanted the Auditor-General to probe the transaction as the committee was “not convinced” and the transactions raised more questions.

“There is more to this, head of department. Try to explain, but we are not convinced and [the] auditor-general must investigate,” he said.

Ngobeni also said the committee would wait for advice from the auditor-general

before a decision on what should follow was made.

The DA’s Desiree van der Walt said it was very suspicious that everybody had the same bank account, but that the companies were different companies.

Head of department Morebudi Thamaga said the multiple transactions might be a result of agreements between suppliers and SMMEs.

“But we will investigate each and every one [company] so that we are able to give a clear explanation,” he said.

Thamaga also failed to tell the committee why one company was paid more than 21 times instead of the different companies being paid directly.

The department told the committee it had to spend irregularly for repairing schools damaged by storms.


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