Public Works starts to clean up house following audit’s findings
Economy / 12 September 2011, 05:00am / Roy Cokayne
The Auditor-general has identified shortcomings at the Public Works Department during the latest audit of the department’s financial affairs.
Public Works Minister Gwen Mahlangu-Nkabinde said on Friday that the department’s audit was currently being finalised and the department had commenced with “the effort of attending to shortcomings” that had been identified.
Speaking at a briefing after a meeting between the minister, her deputy and provincial public works MECs, Deputy Public Works Minister Hendrietta Bogopane-Zulu said they deliberately did not go into detail about the shortcomings because it was a preliminary report and they were attempting to clear up misunderstandings between the department and the auditor-general.
She said the department would be able to talk about the issues raised by the auditor-general once the audit report had been finalised.
Mahlangu-Nkabinde and the department have been in the spotlight over allegedly flawed lease agreements signed for premises for the SAPS.
In July public protector Thuli Madonsela found that the contracts concluded by the Department of Public Works with businessman Roux Shabangu to rent police headquarters in Durban and Pretoria at inflated prices were “fatally flawed”.
Madonsela’s report also painted a damning picture of Mahlangu-Nkabinde’s conduct and said her department was guilty of “serious maladministration”. It recommended that President Jacob Zuma consider taking action against her.
Mahlangu-Nkabinde was adamant on Friday that her voice on the lease agreements had “not been heard”.
“I know very well and trust, and I know I can trust the ANC in this process, that my voice will be heard because it has to be heard,” she said. “People must know what happened. It’s very important for South Africans and for myself to close this chapter.”
Mahlangu-Nkabinde added that “politics is not for cry babies” and the matter had been referred by the Speaker in Parliament to the portfolio committees on public works and police.
She had presented herself last Tuesday to political parties in the public works portfolio committee because she wanted to stop people saying she was “nowhere to be seen”.
Mahlangu-Nkabinde said she had been there with her legal team and was ready to respond to any questions people might want to ask her. However, the chairwoman of the committee had indicated that this must wait until the police portfolio committee was also part of the meeting.
Mahlangu-Nkabinde said the meeting with public works MECs had received a briefing from the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) on the work it was doing in the department.
Geoff Doidge, who was public works minister at the time, called in the SIU in late 2009 to probe the theft of furniture from government offices and ministers’ houses and allegations that officials were colluding with contractors to overcharge the department.
Mahlangu-Nkabinde declined on Friday to provide further details about the SIU investigation, stressing they had received a draft report from the SIU and the unit had not yet completed its work.
The SIU had also requested her department not to make public statements about the investigation.