Free State Premier, Hawks ordered to act on funeral overspending

The late Education MEC Tate Makgoe, whose funeral was the cause of much controversy due to the ‘unreasonable costs’. Picture: Supplied

The late Education MEC Tate Makgoe, whose funeral was the cause of much controversy due to the ‘unreasonable costs’. Picture: Supplied

Published Jul 7, 2024


THE newly appointed Free State Premier, Joyce Letsoha-Mathae, and the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (Hawks) were given the responsibility to take action against officials who were involved in the irregular appointment of C-Squared, the events company appointed as a service provider for the funeral of the late MEC for Education Tate Makgoe.

This was after the Public Protector found that C-Squared was appointed without following the correct bidding process and that the costs incurred were unreasonable.

The investigation came after the DA in the Free State requested Public Protector Kholeka Gcaleka to probe allegations that more than R3 million was spent on the funeral in March last year.

This was after former Premier Mxolisi Dukwana told the legislature that the province paid R130 000 for a casket and burial plot, R355 000 for entertainment and R1.2 million for catering, among other things.

This was criticised by opposition parties in the province.

The DA also complained that C-Squared was implicated in the highly publicised Macufe tender case, which was declared unlawful by the court, and that the matter was currently under investigation by the Hawks.

The party said the the re-appointment of C-Squared, which has already embarrassed the provincial government and tainted the image of the Mangaung Annual Cultural Festival, was very suspicious.

Gcaleka said she also realised that the province also paid for the funeral of warrant officer Piet Mdi, a member of the SAPS and a protector of Makgoe. This was also included in the investigation.

Both Makgoe and Mdi died in a car crash on the N1 road outside Winburg in March last year.

In her report, Gcaleka said the officials of the Office of the Premier proceeded to evaluate the quotation received from C-Squared despite the quotation including items that were not listed on the specifications of the Request For Quotations (RFQ), which was in contravention of section 45(a) to (d) of the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA).

She said the appointment of C-Squared and resultant expenditure was in violation of the provisions of sections 195(a)(b)(f) and 217(1) of the Constitution and in contravention of section 38(1)(a)(iii) of the PFMA and National Treasury Regulation 16A3.2(a).

She said this was because the process was not conducted in accordance with a system that was fair, equitable, transparent and cost-effective as the quotation was not evaluated in terms of the criteria stated in the RFQ.

“The Public Protector takes cognisance that the circumstances under which funeral preparations were to be done required an urgent procurement process, however, it was still incumbent on the Accounting Officer and functionaries of the FSOP (Free State Office of the Premier) to adhere to the standards set out in section 217 of the Constitution read with sections 38(1)(a)(iii), 45(b) of the PFMA and National Treasury Regulations 16A3.2.

“There was no segregation of the functions that were performed by the officials in the drafting of the specifications, the evaluation of the quotations, and the adjudication thereof, in line with the provisions of National Treasury Circular: Implementation of Supply Chain Management, 27 October 2004, which renders the procurement process in violation of section 217 of the Constitution,” read the report.

Gcaleka said even though the funeral policy does not define “reasonable costs”, cognisance must be taken that R5.9 million for a funeral could never have been the intention of the policy.

She said reasonable costs should be understood within the ambit of “funeral undertaker costs including the coffin and limited catering for the family and the official guests”.

“In this instance, the functionaries went beyond the same,” said Gcaleka.

She said the conduct of the officials in appointing C-Squared, and the resultant excessive expenditure for the events leading up to and the funeral of Makgoe and Mdi, was improper.

Gcaleka said Letsoha-Mathae should take disciplinary action against the director-general of the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Kopung Ralikontsane, for his failure to execute his duties of section 38 of the PFMA relating to Makgoe and Mdi’s funerals.

Letsoha-Mathae was also instructed to ensure that disciplinary action is taken by the director general against the officials of the Premier’s office involved.

Gcaleka said she also referred a copy of the report to the Hawks for consideration and to establish whether any acts of impropriety identified therein amount to criminal conduct in terms of the Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act, 2004.

The Free State Premier’s office director of corporate communications, Setjhaba Maphalla, said Letsoha Mathe had seen the report and would study it thoroughly to understand its factual basis and legal implications to assist her to arrive at an informed decision.

He said the Premier intends to comply fully with the time frames set out by the Public Protector and understands that she has 90 days to take action.

He added that Ralikontsane has considered the report and does not agree with the conclusions and the findings as expressed by the Public Protector.

“The DG is seeking legal advice with the intention to take the report on review to the High Court.”

Hawks spokesperson Brigadier Thandi Mbambo said the directorate has been made aware of the existence of the report and has started processes to have it in its possession.

The Presidency and the National Treasury director-general were told to collaborate and determine the actual costs related to services that are expected to be offered per funeral category and in light of the deficiencies identified in the report.

However, both departments did not respond to questions from the “Sunday Independent”.

Meanwhile, the DA’s leader of the official opposition in the Free State Legislature, Roy Jankielshon, said the party would monitor the recommended remedial action and continue to be an effective opposition to ensure accountability and that residents get value for money from government expenditure.