Johannesburg - Knives are out for axed finance minister Pravin Gordhan over a failed R1 billion IT project.
Gordhan’s former deputy Mcebisi Jonas and former Treasury director-general Lungisa Fuzile are also reportedly in the cross-hairs over the project, which never came to fruition.
Some sections of the ANC on Wednesday called on state institutions and law enforcement agencies to investigate the trio, saying they could have been complicit in the matter.
The call comes 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.
The 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, the Treasury didn’t get value for money on the IT system.
Now President Jacob Zuma’s backers have called for those who presided over the project to be brought to book, saying they were responsible for its “collapse”.
This comes days after Zuma’s son Duduzane launched a stinging attack on Gordhan, accusing him of being behind the closure of his bank accounts.
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.
On Wednesday, ANC Youth League spokesperson Mlondi Mkhize said 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 Scopa to “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 SAPS and the Public Protector’s Office,” said Mkhize.
The Treasury regulated how departments spent their budgets and “the fact that taxpayers’ (money) was wasted within the Treasury is a matter of grave concern”.
Umkhonto weSizwe Military Veterans Association chairperson and Deputy Defence Minister Kebby Maphatsoe said Scopa needed to “dig deeper into this thing”.
“This matter was exposed by (24-hour news channel) ANN7 but nobody took it seriously. Had it been the SABC or eNCA that reported on it, it would have long been investigated.”
Maphatsoe, who is a staunch Zuma supporter, said the project amounted to wasteful expenditure. 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.
On Wednesday, Gordhan hit back, saying the attacks were part of a “Gupta syndicate” to discredit him.
He added 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 to once again earn the trust of citizens and ensure the ANC wins the 2019 elections,” said Gordhan.
“This is also a transparent and ridiculous attempt to shift the focus from the plentiful evidence existing in the public protector’s state capture report and the leaked emails of plain stealing of public resources for which this clique must still account,” he said.
Gordhan, who was out of the country, said they would 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.
After his axing in March, Gordhan has been addressing numerous lectures on the impact of state capture by the Guptas. Leaked emails, dubbed #GuptaLeaks, showed serious allegations of graft and undue influence in key government decisions by the family.