File image: IOL
File image: IOL

Public protector slated over R19m irregular expenditure

By MAYIBONGWE MAQHINA Time of article published Sep 21, 2018

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Auditor-General Kimi Makwetu has made damning findings against the Office of the Public Protector, saying it has failed to comply with legislation when buying goods and services.

This emerged in a shocking annual report tabled in Parliament recently, which stated that the Office of the Public Protector had raked in R19million in irregular expenditure dating back to 2006.

The payments were made during the period of incumbents Busisiwe Mkhwebane, Thuli Madonsela and Lawrence Mushwana.

However, Makwetu took issue with Mkhwebane, saying she failed to review and monitor compliance with legislation and irregular expenditure that continued after she took office in October 2016.

“An action plan was developed to address external audit findings, however adherence to the plan was not adequately monitored to prevent non-compliance with legislation,” he said.

Makwetu said non-compliance could have been prevented had compliance been properly reviewed and monitored by management.

“The majority of the irregular expenditure disclosed in the financial statements was caused by payments being made above the contracts as well as no procurement process being followed,” he said.

These included payments made to attorneys who represented Mkhwebane in her various review court cases.

“Such payments have exceeded the original amounts contracted with the firms,” reads the annual report.

Makwetu also said no effective steps were taken to prevent R1.8m in fruitless and wasteful expenditure that arose from labour-related matters.

His shocking finding was that goods and services worth less than R500000 were procured without three price quotations.

“Similar non-compliance was also reported in the prior year,” Makwetu said, adding that no competitive bidding was undertaken in tenders worth more than R500000.

Makwetu also said some contracts were extended without approval of a properly delegated official in terms of the Public Finance Management Act.

These included R8m paid to Duma Travel, dating back to 2006, a cleaning service and security services at the head offices.

But Mkhwebane’s spokesperson Oupa Segalwe said R18.2m of the reported irregular expenditure was for transactions from previous financial years that were detected and reported in the 2017/18 financial year.

Segalwe blamed non-compliance with procurement on lack of proper contract extensions and failure to obtain approval for deviations from relevant authorities or delegated officials. 

“Exacerbating the problem was the fact that our supply chain management unit was severely under- capacitated,” he said.

Segalwe said key positions to enforce and monitor compliance had been filled.

“These include the senior manager: supply chain management and chief financial officer positions, which were filled between November 2017 and July 2018.”

Segalwe also said a number of officials had been disciplined and final written warnings issued for a matter relating to 2015/16.

“Nine officials who were affected by the transactions in question were requested to explain their roles and reasons for failing to comply with the relevant prescripts as part of investigations.”

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