Communications Minister Dina Pule. Photo: Neil Baynes

A total of R425 000 was spent on compensation for a damaged rented vehicle in Minister of Communications Dina Pule’s office – but her department says no one could be held responsible.

Pule said the rented car had been involved in an accident and the state attorney had indicated “there was no negligence and no one could be held responsible for that”.

This is just one example of monetary losses or wasteful expenditure in the department.

Pule revealed in a written parliamentary reply yesterday that her department had also spent R327 000 on recruitment adverts in newspapers for interviews that never took place because of “organisational realignment”.

Another R1.27 million had been wasted on “fraudulent international calls”. Pule said although the state security agency had conducted an investigation into the matter, “the outcome was that perpetrators could not be identified and (the agency) recommended that the matter be closed”.

DA MP Marius Swart said these figures were “shocking”. “Surely somebody should be able to track and listen to these conversations.” This was “R1.27m down the drain”.

The department also underspent its budget on its information and communication (ICT) infrastructure programme by R352m.

The programme - launched in the 2000/2001 financial year - had been allocated R938m, and the bulk of this, R586m, had been spent only last year, according to Pule’s reply.

There had been underspending in the last four financial years.

Pule said in the 2004/2005 year this had been due to “the finalisation of the restructuring process at the end of the financial year”.

In the 2010/2011 year, a 112 emergency call centre project was put on hold, leading to further wasteful expenditure. Last year, underspending was blamed on the cancellation of the 112 emergency call centre.

Pule said the project had been abandoned after a “cost benefit analysis and feasibility study” by the National Treasury.

Swart said all the reasons provided for the wasted budget showed a lack of planning.

“It should not have been on the budget if they knew they could not do it,” Swart said.

He said ICT infrastructure was a priority for the country. “What is saddening about the issue of (ICT) infrastructure is that it is something proposed by the president as the basis of job creation (and) here is a department under spending… there seems to be no urgency,” said Swart.

Regarding the failed call centre project, he said: “Feasibility studies should have been done before they carry it out.”

Pretoria News Weekend