Johannesburg - North West Premier Job Mokgoro says he will set the record straight on insinuations that, while acting as provincial director-general (DG), he gave the transport department permission to irregularly pay R50 million to South African Express (SAX) in 2015.
Mokgoro is adamant he did not have the power to approve or reject such a prepayment from a provincial entity of government.
The insinuations were made by North West Department of Community Safety and Transport Management chief financial officer Kutlwano Phatudi at the Zondo Commission of Inquiry probing State capture in the country on Friday.
Phatudi was testifying about the alleged involvement of former premier Supra Mahumapelo’s office in the approval of the payment for the management of two provincial airports, Pilanesberg and Mahikeng, in 2015.
Detailing the history of the payment, Phatudi said her provincial head of department, Bailey Mahlakoleng, wrote to Mokgoro - who was briefly holding the fort as DG while Mahumapelo was premier - on March 16, 2015, requesting the R50m prepayment. The money, the commission heard, was paid on March 26, 2015.
Phatudi said the department received an invoice to make the R50m prepayment to the airline, but the amount had not been budgeted for.
She said the SAX contract was only concluded on March 31, 2015.
“I do not understand how the invoice came before the conclusion of the contract,” she said.
Yesterday, Mokgoro indicated his intention to appear before the State capture commission and clarify his role when the payment to SAX was brought to his attention.
Mokgoro’s spokesperson, Vuyisile Ngesi, said: “North West Premier Professor Tebogo Job Mokgoro has noted the mentioning of his name during the testimony of the chief financial officer of the provincial department of community safety and transport management, Ms Kutlwano Phatudi, at the state capture commission on Friday.
“Premier Mokgoro wishes to place it on record that the mention of his name does not necessarily mean he is implicated in any wrongdoing,” Ngesi said.
Mokgoro was prepared to appear before the Zondo commission should he be subpoenaed to do so, Ngesi said.
He would co-operate with the commission and was available to give evidence before it.
According to Ngesi, the provincial community safety and transport management department “was obliged to inform the then acting DG (Mokgoro) about the payment.
“The premier, while acting (as provincial diectror-general), did not have the power to approve or disapprove the payment,” Ngesi said.
In her testimony, Phatudi said: “I don’t know why SA Express was paid before the contract was signed and the payment processed in another department (office of the premier).”
Commission chairperson Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo said: “You may want to find out who in the office of the premier authorised the payment?
“What did they have in front of them to make that decision?”
Justice Zondo said he found the agreement strange because Mahumapelo and his MECs approved SAX’s appointment to revive the Pilanesberg and Mahikeng airports but told officials to conduct the analysis of the presentations made by potential bidders.
“How do you start by making a decision and afterwards say bring me the information that is needed to make the decision after you have already made the decision?” Justice Zondo asked.
Phatudi said her department had no obligation to pay SAX before the signing of the agreement, which Mahlakoleng had instructed the department’s legal section to draft.
She told the commission she only became aware that the agreement had been signed when there were two invoices presented - one from SAX (R50m) and another from management company Koreneka (R20m).