Deputy Speaker of the Limpopo Legislature Lehlogonolo Masoga. Picture: Bongiwe Mchunu/African News Agency (ANA) Archives
Pretoria - Deputy Speaker of the Limpopo Legislature, Lehlogonolo Masoga, is fighting the recommendation by Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane that he should pay back “a reasonable portion” of a phone bill of R125 000 incurred while on an official trip in the US in August 2014.

Masoga was in the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria, to have the report reviewed and set aside. He apparently ran up the bill in less than one month.

It has been claimed that a significant part of the bill comprised the cost of watching porn. The public protector, however, did not make mention of this in her report.

The legislature settled the huge bill, but the matter is not going away for Masoga, who disputed the bill. According to him, the Vodacom bill only amounted to slightly more than R99000.

The public protector at first investigated the bill after a Sunday newspaper in 2015 reported that “an official racked up a R100k porn bill” while on a trip to the US. The public protector issued a report in April 2017, in which she cleared Masoga of wrongdoing.

It was stated that the normal maximum telephone allowance allowed for the deputy speaker was R6000, but the policy of the legislature allowed for the coverage of phone bills incurred when the deputy speaker was abroad.

The public protector found that no cap for these bills were mentioned in the policy document and therefore the legislature did not violate the policy on telephone usage when it paid the bill.

But a few months down the line another newspaper reported that “Public protector investigator in hot water for clearing Masoga’s R120k porn bill”.

It was mentioned in this article that the first report brought out by the public protector was unauthorised.

In January last year, Masoga received notice from the public protector that she was about to finalise an investigation into his alleged misuse of public funds regarding his phone bill of R125 000 while in the US.

Masoga said this second report, in which she suggested he paid back some of money, was a “witch-hunt intended to besmirch his name in the public domain and spoil his political career”.

The public protector, in the second report, found the amount spent by Masoga was unreasonably high compared to the other members of the legislature who had travelled with him.

But he stated he could not be compared to them, as he had other functions to fulfil while there.

Masoga also said that another reason for the high bill could be that he forgot his roaming on and thus also had to pay for incoming calls.

He said the figures mentioned in the second report were also incorrect as the Vodacom statement showed his bill was R99880.66. “Simply put, the two reports cannot stand side by side”

Masoga asked the court to accept the first report and reject the second one.

The case is due to proceed at a later stage, as the legislature has now joined as a party to the proceedings.

Pretoria News