‘Where did our missing millions go?’
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Pretoria - The Bapo ba Mogale community in Brits wants outgoing Public Protector Thuli Madonsela to speedily complete the investigation into allegations of systematic looting of their collective resources.
Members of the community packed the tribal hall in Bapong, west of the city, on Saturday where Madonsela was giving a preliminary report of her investigation into the matter.
But community members said they were tired of the time it was taking and wanted answers. They expressed concern that with Madonsela in her final days as public protector, the investigation could be further compromised.
Madonsela has been investigating the disappearance of more than R600 million from the so-called D-account of the North West provincial government, which was meant to develop the area. There is just more than R400 000 left in the account.
Madonsela was also asked to look into whether all of the royalty payments due to the community from Lonmin and other companies mining on Bapong land had been paid.
The residents asked that an investigation be conducted into the alleged abuse of resources related to the construction of the palace of their traditional leader Kgosi Edward Mogale.
Tshepo Mogale said they were concerned that the investigation could be affected by the fact that Madonsela was leaving office next Saturday.
He said her successor advocate Busisiwe Mkhwebane would have to familiarise herself with the case, which could take more time.
“Madonsela has been working on this investigation for years and is familiar with what is going on. We need consistency,” Mogale said.
Another resident, Dinah Sello, appealed to Madonsela to speed up the investigation and release a final report into the affairs of the community so that the fighting between opposing groups could stop.
“You left us empty by not releasing the final report. We do not want to wait for six months to get the report; please release the report so that the fighting will stop,” said Sello.
Tiisetso Sefudi added that the more the investigation dragged on, the higher the chances that implicated people would try to cover their tracks.
Sefudi said if she had it her way, she would make sure Madonsela saw the whole investigation through. “The next thing you know the new public protector will ask for more time to learn the facts of the investigation - we don’t have time,” Sefudi said.
Madonsela said she would release an exit report by October 14, which would include the Bapong matter, before vacating office.
She also assured community members that the incoming public protector would be more than capable of handling the investigation without requiring more time. “We will definitely get to the bottom of this; anything worthwhile requires time,” Madonsela said.
The final report was expected in December or January to give forensic investigator Godfrey Rangongo and quantity surveyor Andre Moolman a chance to verify the information collected, Madonsela said.
Bapo ba Mogale asked the public protector in 2012 to investigate the allegations.
On her last visit in July, Madonsela told the community that they had R721 000 in the account when the auditor-general audited it in 1994.
Over a period of 20 years, the funds in the account grew to more than R617m, which was made up of R392m in deposits and R224m in interest earned. By the end of 2014, the balance in the account had dropped to just over R495 000.
In 2014, the community stopped using the account, preferring a newly-established investment wing for its resources. Since then, about R40m in royalties were received, most of which had already been spent.
“What this means is that basically all of the money earned has been spent,” the public protector said, adding that the investigation team knew the identities of some of the officials responsible for authorising expenditure.