Shiceka's complaint against M&G dismissed

The press ombudsman has dismissed a complaint by Cooperative Governance Minister Sicelo Shiceka about a Mail & Guardian story on reported irregular expenditure.

“This is the point: Nowhere does the M&G state it as a fact that Shiceka misspent public funds—the whole story, from start to finish, is about an internal audit report that lists Shiceka’s alleged irregular expenditure,” the deputy press ombudsman, Johan Retief, said on Friday.

“It is not within my mandate to determine whether Shiceka indeed misspent public funds—my only task is to determine if the newspaper was justified in its reportage. Based on the argument listed in the bullets above, it indeed was.

“And as taxpayers’ money was involved, the public had a right to know,” said Retief.

Shiceka’s spokesperson, Vuyelwa Qinga, complained to the ombud about the report that appeared last November.

The story said that an internal report in Shiceka’s ministry revealed “irregular expenditure” of thousands of rands on flowers by “high-living” Shiceka.

It added that these flowers, worth more than R15 000, were requested by his spouse for his home.

The Mail & Guardian also said the audit report singled out long lists of irregular payments, such as interior decorations for Shiceka’s ministerial home in Waterkloof, which included oil paintings, three plasma TV sets and kitchen utensils.

The cost of these “decorations” was reportedly close to R125 000.

The ombudsman said “ample space” was given to Shiceka’s views on the matter and that the story consistently portrayed the internal audit report.

“The complaint is therefore dismissed in its entirety,” said Retief.—Sapa


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