The fraud-busters are to investigate how R250 000 appeared in EC Premier Phumulo Masualle's bank account around the time of Nelson Mandela's funeral.
The misuse of funds meant for Nelson Mandela’s funeral could see Eastern Cape Premier Phumulo Masualle quizzed by the Hawks after R250 000 was inexplicably deposited into his personal account. A forensic report has also raised questions about how millions of rands meant for the funeral were misspent.
It appears that, as preparations were being made for Mandela’s funeral, some, including senior ANC officials, apparently took advantage of the situation for their own financial gain.
Masualle, then the MEC for finance in the province, has been at pains to explain why a quarter of a million rand was deposited into his personal account in December and later reversed. He had initially said he was not aware of the deposit, details of which were first published in the Daily Dispatch.
On Thursday he said the head of the provincial treasury had now taken responsibility for the deposit.
“The head of department for the treasury [Marion Mbina-Mthembu] takes full responsibility for the decision that she made for the money to be deposited into the personal account of the MEC [Masualle] ... who himself directed that this money be reversed,” said Masualle’s spokesperson, Lungelo Madlingozi.
Masualle said he had instructed officials in his department to reverse the transaction immediately upon learning of it.
Mbina-Mthembu on Thursday admitted that she instructed her staff to “make money available for Masualle ... I did not know that people in my office did not know that you can’t deposit money into someone’s personal account. I am taking responsibility [for this],” she said.
But sources within the provincial government told the Mail & Guardian this week that the money deposited into Masualle’s personal account was only returned after Bulelwa Nqadolo, the chief financial officer, who was on leave at the time, queried the payment when she returned to the office.
Nqadolo said on Thursday that she did not want to comment and referred the M&G to the provincial communication department.
The M&G understands that the Hawks are now investigating the deposit and other funds that were apparently misspent on the Mandela funeral after a senior provincial government official tipped them off about the deposit into Masualle’s account.
Hawks’ spokesperson Paul Ramaloko confirmed this week that they were investigating, but refused to divulge more details.
Masualle’s spokesperson Madlingozi said he was only aware of public protector Thuli Madonsela’s investigation into the premier.
“We have now received the public protector’s request for information and we are busy responding to it. However, we are not aware about the involvement of the Hawks at this stage, and should there be involvement, we will co-operate with them as well,” said Madlingozi.
Madonsela confirmed to the M&G this week that her office was conducting its own investigation into “allegations of maladministration, corruption and unconscionable use of public funds” by the OR Tambo, King Sabata Dalindyebo and Buffalo City municipalities when they hired service providers for the Mandela memorial and funeral services. Combined, the three municipalities spent close to R65-million to pay service providers for the Mandela funeral without following proper procurement procedures.
According to the documents, over R9-million was approved by the provincial treasury to pay for meals.
It is not clear, however, whether the food was given to mourners at the funeral or to volunteers who assisted with funeral arrangements.
A large chunk of the funds was channelled through the Eastern Cape Development Corporation (ECDC), which was appointed by the provincial government to manage funds for the Mandela funeral.
The money came from the R300-million infrastructure grant the provincial treasury had channelled to the ECDC for projects such as water, electricity, sanitation, ablution facilities and refurbishing hospitals in the province.
A forensic report commissioned by the ECDC found that the entity paid service providers over R22-million, based on an unsigned submission from the provincial Cabinet.
The report, which is dated April 2014 and was compiled by Fundudzi Forensic Services, accuses ECDC’s former chief executive Sithembele Mase of allegedly spending millions of rands to pay for services for the Mandela funeral, which were not related to infrastructure support.
Mase could not be reached for comment this week.
Madlingozi defended the use of taxpayers’ money without proper procurement procedures by the provincial government.
“The premier and the rest of the Eastern Cape Cabinet approved the usage of the identified funds and communicated that instruction to government officials with know-ledge and expertise in government finances.
“Guidelines were issued by the accounting officer for treasury as to how the Mandela funds were to be disbursed,” said Madlingozi.
Masualle and Mbina-Mthembu both told the M&G this week that the revelations around the deposit were “politically motivated”.
Mandela Day march over fraud
Opposition parties in the Eastern Cape are using Mandela Day to protest against the alleged embezzlement of the late icon’s funeral funds.
The Economic Freedom Fighters have organised a march in Buffalo City, the municipality in which mayor Zukiswa Ncitha and two others were arrested last month in connection with the scandal.
Simcelile Rubela, the party’s provincial co-ordinator, told the M&G the EFF was mobilising residents to march from Duncan Village.
“We’re marching in the name of Dr Nelson Mandela because those funds were embezzled in his name,” said Rubela.
He said their petition would demand the removal of corrupt officials across the province. “We want to put pressure on those in authority to remove people found to be corrupt. Remember, it’s Mandela Day, and contrary to what the president [Jacob Zuma] has suggested – that it should be cleaning day to honour Nelson Mandela – we’ve decided we’re going to engage in something more constructive and that will benefit society in the long run.”
Athol Trollip, leader of the Democratic Alliance in the province, told the M&G the party will question the alleged Mandela funeral fraud at its cleaning campaign in New Brighton, Nelson Mandela Bay.
“[Parliamentary leader] Mmusi Maimane and I will make speeches there,” Trollip said. “One of the issues we’ll talk about is the irregular expenditure for the Mandela funeral – as well as the fact that the legislature is blocking me from asking a question to the premier [Phumulo Masualle] about why that money was paid into his private account.”
Trollip claimed this week that Noxolo Kiviet, speaker of the Eastern Cape legislature, had blocked his efforts to pose questions about the scandal.
He said the DA would “not allow the legislature, or the ANC to sweep the matter under the carpet”. – Bongani Nkosi