Mathale ‘blocks’ corruption probe
Limpopo Premier Cassel Mathale has effectively been accused of frustrating and hampering corruption investigations into top civil servants.
The Sunday Independent was told that Mathale was refusing to institute disciplinary action against several heads of departments who were accused of corruption.
Public Service and Administration Minister Lindiwe Sisulu said yesterday that Mathale’s legal team was questioning the legality of “procedural documents” compiled for investigations.
She said the premier was supposed to sign off the documents that would lead to two provincial heads of departments being charged.
“They (Limpopo) must co-operate for us to continue (with the disciplinary actions),” Sisulu said.
She confirmed that the Limpopo investigations had stalled for four months.
Sisulu visited the province in January and saw Mathale again last week to discuss the status of the documents at the centre of the investigations, she said.
“The documents indicate what the charges (against the two heads of departments) are. (Mathale) took the documents to his lawyers, who were worried about… its legality. They pointed out procedural matters that needed to be dealt with,” Sisulu said.
One of the issues, said Sisulu, was that she as a national minister could not charge a head of department in a provincial administration.
Sisulu wants Parliament to fast-track legislation that will define the role of national and provincial leaders of provinces under administration.
Mathale’s spokeswoman Mashadi Mathosa said: “The provincial and national governments are working well together and we are not aware of any processes that are geared at disrupting the section 100 intervention.”
Mathosa refused to grant The Sunday Independent an interview with Mathale, who did not return text messages and calls.
President Jacob Zuma placed five Limpopo departments under the Treasury’s administration in 2011 following the province’s financial troubles while an intervention team probed massive corruption relating to state contracts.
But according to three sources close to the Limpopo corruption cases – who could not be named for legal and political reasons – top officials implicated in corruption have never been questioned as a result of Mathale’s alleged failure to co-operate.
Mathale – who was removed as chairman of the provincial ANC when his executive committee was disbanded – was apparently provided with the charge sheet against the top officials, according to a national government official. But the premier allegedly demanded forensic reports before he could take action against the officials. The Treasury’s intervention team refused to give him the forensic reports as they feared this could compromise the investigations.
As a result, this has stalled the criminal investigations by the Special Investigating Unit against the top officials.
The internal disciplinary action, to be spearheaded by the Public Service Department, would have identified areas that needed further criminal investigation.
The source said Mathale and officials in his department were frustrating the intervention:
“With the high-profile cases, the office of the premier needs to facilitate those disciplinary processes. When it comes to disciplining HODs, that must come from the premier.
“The premier must act but he will not act. The premier has the power to hire and fire. Instead he has used that power to frustrate the intervention itself. The premier has exploited the fact that there is a grey area.”
The source said one of the biggest challenges for the intervention was that the office of the premier was not placed under administration.
The officials in departments under administration were found to have manipulated procurement processes and needed to be dealt with, said the source.
“There are five HODs that need to be disciplined. Three are from the five departments that were placed under intervention. Two are from other departments outside of the intervention.
“At least one HOD has resigned after establishing that there was going to be an investigation into them,” said the source.
“Action must also be taken against senior officials (who) were on bid adjudication and evaluation committees. But the premier does not want to act,” said the source.
The Sunday Independent has seen the dossier of one of the impending criminal investigations. It involves a probe into poor-quality renovations at 15 schools in Limpopo that cost taxpayers over R500 million. The bill is said to have been inflated.
Standing committee on public accounts chairman Themba Godi said when the committee visited the province in November, the department’s responses to the red-flagged issues were “wishy washy”.
“We want a speedy resolution to the disciplinary processes so that those who have erred will face action,” Godi said.