Cape Town. 220212. Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan delivers his annual budget speech in parliament. Picture Leon Lestrade

Johannesburg - The government’s takeover of five dysfunctional Limpopo departments has been a spectacular flop.

Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi admitted last week that 38 boilers at 19 hospitals and X-ray machines were still out of order.

And, in a report before the select committee on finance in the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) two weeks ago, Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga admitted that some pupils had to write exams sitting on bricks.

A report presented to the same NCOP committee on the same day two weeks ago, by the Treasury, states that despite the province’s R1.7 billion deficit improvement to a R2.3bn surplus, “deep-rooted inefficiency” still beset the provincial treasury.

The corrupt province sings a dirge of political and administrative disgrace: hospitals run out of food and medication; service providers cut their supplies of food because they are not paid for services rendered, and pupils are stranded because transport contractors are not paid.

To add fuel to the fire, textbooks for grades 1, 2, 3 and 10 pupils were delivered only after June, thanks to rights group Section27 and its court case against the Department of Basic Education.

Also, promises to institute World Cup-type courts have come to naught.

Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan made the promise at a media briefing in January: “As and when any evidence of breaking the law is revealed by the forensic investigation, the perpetrators will be charged, whether they are government employees or service providers, and we will have special courts, World Cup 2010-style, on standby.”

The five provincial departments placed under administration in terms of section 100 (b) of the constitution on December 5 last year were education, health, public works, provincial treasury, and roads and transport.

Gordhan said in the report two weeks ago that at the time of the intervention, Limpopo was bankrupt. The province would not have paid the salaries of teachers, doctors, nurses and service providers had it not been thrown a lifeline by the national Treasury.

In addition to the R2.6bn unauthorised expenditure, the province was unable to repay a R500 million overdraft to its official bank. The collapse of controls in the provincial treasury plunged the province into financial turmoil, Gordhan said.

The illegal payment of services, even without documentation, was prevalent. Gordhan said: “[The] executive council, [led by Premier Cassel Mathale], endorsed illegal procurement processes.”

When the cabinet took over the reins, it stripped implicated MECs and managers of their executive power.

Mathale expressed his disquiet, and accused national officials of sabotaging his plans.

But even today, a joint forensic investigation, including the Public Protector and external investigators, is probing allegations of fraud and corruption in provincial government departments.

Several “tenderpreneurs”, including expelled ANCYL president Julius Malema and one of his cousins, were arrested for fraud, money laundering, racketeering and corruption. This week, the Hawks said more arrests would be made before Christmas.

ANC provincial spokesman Makonde Mathivha said the intervention had overstayed its welcome and it had in fact deepened the province’s problems.

Department spokesman Panyaza Lesufi rejected Mathivha’s claim as baseless. He said all contractors who submitted their delivery notes had been paid; it was only those who muststill present theirs to the administrator that had not been paid.

“Any insinuation that the intervention did not bring improvements is not only malicious, it’s unfair and baseless,” said Lesufi.

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The Star