Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan. Photo: Melinda Stuurman

The National Treasury should adjudicate on all Limpopo Education Department tenders of more than R1 million to eliminate interference by officials, says a secret report into the affairs of the cash-strapped department.

It added that only a few department officials should be allowed to take part in the bid adjudication processes.

Written by the Limpopo Education Department’s former administrator, Dr Anis Karodia, the report called for Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan to take over the troubled department’s payments, invoice processing and tender allocation.

This comes amid suggestions that the man at the centre of the province’s raging education crisis, MEC Dickson Masemola, was untouchable as he has supported President Jacob Zuma’s bid for a second term.

The report blamed Masemola for allegedly contributing to his bankrupt department’s unauthorised expenditure bill of R2.2 billion and a “pathetic” state of affairs.

As a result, it had failed to provide textbooks to thousands of pupils seven months into the year.

Karodia accused Masemola of “subtle interference” in the awarding of contracts, adding that the bid adjudication committee had been influenced by third parties.

“It is my contention that all tenders above R1m must be controlled by the National Treasury and… adjudicated by them, with a few Department of Education officials from Limpopo sitting in the bid process. This will eliminate interference,” part of the Karodia report said.

He added that variations beyond 20 percent had to be explained before any further spending would be allowed.

Karodia said the department’s key duties and responsibilities – authorisation, processing, recording and reviewing of transactions – had to be separated.

An audit report said Masemola’s department had paid R2 million a month to Aurecon JV, a company linked to him. The money was more than what was tendered for in the six months leading to its bankruptcy last year.

Masemola denied any wrongdoing and rubbished Karodia’s report, characterising it as “pure lies”.

He said the “floating tabloid” report was based on unsubstantiated allegations.

Masemola added that he had challenged the report before it was rejected by Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga.

Allegations that Masemola could be enjoying political protection from Zuma were made weeks after Karodia’s report – delivered to legislators in March but not released to the public – was leaked.

The Star’s sister paper, The Sunday Independent, reported at the weekend that although the ANC in Limpopo had “lost confidence” in Masemola, he could not be removed because he was a “Zuma man”.

Masemola flanked the ANC leader when he delivered the Nelson Mandela memorial lecture in Thohoyandou last week.

Masemola, who is also the provincial ANC chairman, was, until now, part of Limpopo Premier Cassel Mathale’s faction that took a resolution not to support Zuma’s bid for a second term as ANC leader. He is thought to have switched allegiance.

A Limpopo ANC source close to Mathale said he faced a dilemma.

“Nationally, they won’t remove Masemola because he is a Zuma man. If Cassel removes him, you (the media) will be the first to say he has removed a rival. If he doesn’t, it is also a problem,” the source said.

Another provincial ANC leader said Mathale could not fire Masemola because he no longer had executive authority over the department as it was under administration.

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The Star