Minister of Women, Children and People with Disability Lulu Xingwana. File photo: Sizwe Ndingane

Cape Town - The DA has asked Auditor-General Terence Nombembe to investigate “skewed spending” by the Minister of Women, Children and People with Disabilities, Lulu Xingwana, following reports that her department spent more than R2 million on redecorating its head office.

Weekend reports said the department had splurged R2.1m in government funds on new custom-made furniture – less than two years after the ministry was set up.

In at least five of the 11 purchases of furniture, crockery, cutlery and kitchen appliances, Xingwana’s office allegedly deviated from supply chain procedures and failed to get quotes, as required, from three suppliers before buying the items.

It allegedly spent R500 000 on two occasions with only two suppliers.

The DA spokeswoman on women, children and people with disabilities, Helen Lamoela, said while Xingwana had spent millions on designer furniture, overseas trips and private lawyers to assist in axing some of her staff, it had become “increasingly apparent that the protection of women and children is very low on the minister’s list of priorities”.

The DA would ask Nombembe to investigate “this latest report of extravagant and wasteful expenditure by the department under Minister Xingwana’s watch”.

Xingwana, said to be among ministers likely to be axed by President Jacob Zuma should he reshuffle his cabinet, has also come under fire for her spending in other areas.

This includes the allocation of R25m of her department’s 2012/13 budget on travel and subsistence, while she allocated only R13.5m to her department’s “Children’s Rights and Responsibilities” programme, which also recorded a 66 percent under-expenditure.

The department was also heavily criticised for hiring a private law firm instead of using the state attorney to assist in terminating the employment of some of its staff.

It has been accused of flouting tender processes while Xingwana allegedly personally selected the legal team from Fluxmans Attorneys to conduct an investigation into appointment irregularities.

Lamoela said the minister was yet to provide any evidence of “measurable outcomes that provide protection and assistance to vulnerable women, children and people with disabilities. Her department has done little besides throw lavish parties, fly to expensive conferences and redecorate its offices”.

The minister’s inaction amid a “growing tide of violence against women” and her “lacklustre efforts” in promoting the rights of children and people with disabilities were a “slap in the face of those who depend on her department for support”, Lamoela said.

Xingwana’s spokesman, Cornelius Monama, said she had “nothing to hide and is therefore unconcerned” by the DA move.

The department had spent “far less” than R2.1m, he said.

The minister wasn’t involved in supply chain matters, and the buying of furniture had been handled by the former chief financial officer and approved by the former director-general.

“If there are any transgressions, we must focus on those responsible, not on the minister.”

Xingwana had instituted an investigation into irregularities and non-compliance with supply chain processes. “Those implicated are going through disciplinary pro-cesses while others have left the employ of the department.”

Political Bureau