MEC masks art deal in meal
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GAUTENG MEC for Local Government and Housing, Humphrey Mmemezi, used his government-issued credit card to buy an artwork worth R10 000 from McDonald’s.
The initial transaction was disguised to indicate the purchase of R10 000 worth of burgers.
R10 000 will buy 256 Big Mac burger meals with large chips and a coke at R38.95 each.
Documents seen by Independent Newspapers indicate that Mmemezi used his government-issue FNB credit card at the McDonald’s in Silverton, Pretoria, in October.
The money went into a Nedbank account belonging to the restaurant.
Independent Newspapers was informed that the same cash was then transferred to another Nedbank account belonging to Art Unusual – an artwork shop in Pretoria.
Sources said this transaction had enabled Mmemezi to get an artwork worth that amount from the shop in Kempton Park.
Art Unusual manager Alfred Addo confirmed to Independent Newspapers that Mmemezi had bought the artwork from the shop, but said: “It was not for his personal use, but for his office.”
Addo insisted that the department, not Mmemezi, had paid him, but failed to reveal how the transaction was concluded, saying all that had been handled by his accountant.
“I am just an artist. I did the painting and now know that the department paid me.”
Mmemezi has a R50 000 credit limit on his card. He earns more than R1 million a year and has the benefit of a medical aid and car allowance.
Mmemezi’s office has been unable to explain the McDonald’s expenditure. In March, DA spokesman on local government and housing Fred Nel sent the same question to the speaker. He wanted Mmemezi to explain the total expenditure of this credit card last year.
He also wanted Mmemezi to give a breakdown of purchases he had made last year.
Nel asked: “What was bought for R10 000 at McDonald’s in Silverton on October 12, 2011? What was the justification of this purchase? Why was this artwork bought through a McDonald’s branch and (was) all expenditure in line with the guidelines concerning the use of credit cards?”
Mmemezi did not reply. He wrote to Gauteng provincial legislature deputy speaker Steward Ngwenya asking for an extension.
He was granted the extension until April 25, but did not meet the deadline.
Mmemezi has still not provided an answer. Independent Newspapers asked him the same questions.
This was the reaction from his office: “Mr Mmemezi has been issued with an official departmental credit card that he can use from time to time when discharging his duties.
“The MEC is responsible for a very demanding and important portfolio that requires him to travel and have meetings all over the province and also at times to work beyond normal hours including weekends and public holidays.
“This therefore necessitates that at all times he must not be inconvenienced by any administrative problems which could hamper him in carrying out his duties.”
Department head Mongezi Mnyani said the credit card had been used mainly for buying and paying for transactions linked to Mmemezi’s work as allowed by the guidelines of the Ministerial Handbook.
All transactions for personal use were repaid, Mnyani said, therefore Independent Newspapers’ enquiries were “baseless and fault-finding”.
However, the department did not provide proof that Mmemezi had re-imbursed the government.
Mmemezi started to pay back money used via the credit card after the DA submitted questions to the legislature. He made two payments – an initial cash deposit of R33 000 on April 21, and another payment of R40 000 on the same day.