JOHANNESBURG - Former finance minister Pravin Gordhan, his former deputy Mcebisi Jonas and former Treasury director-general Lungisa Fuzile are under fire over a failed R1 billion IT project.
A few cadres of the ANC called on state institutions and law enforcement agencies to investigate the trio, saying they could also have been complicit in the matter.
This was after Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba promised to crack down on those responsible for wasting R1bn in the National Treasury on the Integrated Financial Management System (IFMS).
Gigaba told the Standing Committee on Public Accounts (Scopa) on Tuesday that they had launched a forensic investigation into the IT contract, which had a total budget of R4.3bn.
Treasury initiated the IFMS project in 2005 and spent R1bn and R1.2bn on the first and second phases respectively.
However, MPs have complained that in the past decade Treasury didn’t get value for money on the IT system.
Now President Jacob Zuma’s staunchest supporters have called for those who presided over the project to be brought to book, saying they were responsible for its “collapse”.
This comes just days after Zuma’s son, Duduzane, launched a stinging attack on Gordhan, accusing him of being behind the closure of his bank accounts, among others.
Duduzane said in an open letter to Gordhan on Monday that the IT project was a “scandal” that happened under his watch and was being ignored.
Yesterday ANC Youth League spokesperson Mlondi Mkhize told Independent Newspapers that the Hawks and the Public Protector’s Office should be involved in the matter because “we are talking about public funds here that have been wasted”.
He said Gordhan, Jonas and Fuzile must be hauled before the Scopa to “further elaborate on these financial irregularities and mismanagement”.
“Look, there is a level of impracticality of them being called by Scopa but this doesn’t mean there are no other institutions that can pursue this matter to finality.
By other institutions I mean the Hawks, the SA Police Service and the Public Protector’s Office,” said Mlondi.
The Treasury regulated how departments spent their budgets and “the fact that taxpayers’ (money) was wasted within Treasury is a matter of grave concern,” he said.
UMkhonto weSizwe Military Veterans chairperson and Deputy Defence Minister, Kebby Maphatsoe, said Scopa needed to “dig deeper into this thing”.“This matter was long exposed but because it was exposed by (24-hour news channel) ANN7 nobody took it seriously. Had it been SABC or eNCA that reported on it, it would have long been investigated.”
Maphatsoe, a staunch Zuma supporter, said the project amounted to wasteful expenditure.
“That’s serious corruption by people who thought we were being personal when we were attacking the Treasury,” he said.
He called on Gordhan, Jonas and Fuzile to “come out” and explain their roles in the matter.
“When he (Gordhan) does his moral lectures, where he attacks the ANC as a corrupt organisation, we want him to also explain this issue of the failed IT project. There is no one who is untouchable,” said Maphatsoe.
“The Hawks must close in on these guys. Also the Scopa must put pressure on them to appear before the committee and explain themselves. But the bottom line is: people must be arrested, Pravin, Mcebisi, Fuzile and everyone who was involved. That money could have been used to fund university students.”
Yesterday Gordhan hit back at his detractors, saying the attacks were part of a “Gupta-syndicate” to discredit him.
He told Independent Newspapers that the IFMS project was managed by officials and that the “ministers have never got into the details”.
“This is part of a well-orchestrated campaign by the ‘Gupta-syndicate’ to discredit and launch attacks through the abuse of state institutions on those opposed to corruption and working for a renewal of the ANC so that we can, once again, earn the trust of citizens and ensure the ANC wins the 2019 elections,” said Gordhan.
“These malicious actions by this nefarious clique is a sign of desperation. This is also a very transparent and ridiculous attempt to shift the focus from the plentiful evidence existing in the Public Protector state capture report and the leaked emails of plain stealing of public resources for which this clique must still account some day soon,” he said.
Gordhan, who was out of the country, said they will respond comprehensively next week. When contacted for comment, Jonas said: “I’m still studying this thing. Call me in a few days.”
Fuzile couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.
Following his unceremonious axing by Zuma in the dead of the night in March, Gordhan has been addressing numerous lectures on the impact of state capture by Zuma’s controversial friends, the Guptas.
A throve of leaked emails dubbed the #GuptaLeaks showed serious allegations of corruption and undue influence in key government decisions by the family.
In what has been interpreted as manoeuvres to get banking services, the family has been selling off its companies to their allies after the country’s major banks and one international company dumped them.