Madonsela clears Mbalula from ‘unmandated’ trips

There was no impropriety regarding the many trips undertaken by Sport and Recreation Minister Fikile Mbalula and his deputy, public protector Thuli Madonsela said on Monday.

“While minister Mbalula and Deputy Minister [Gert Oosthuizen] spent an amount close to the alleged R2.7-million, I found no evidence indicating that any of the flights were undertaken improperly and outside the mandate of the department,” Madonsela told reporters in Pretoria.

“The allegation that minister Mbalula and deputy minister Oosthuizen improperly caused the department to incur excessive transport costs for international and domestic flights was not substantiated by evidence.”

Yesterday, Mbalula tweeted the following:

Madonsela investigated claims, made in 2012, that Mbalula caused the sport department to spend R747 410 for 16 international flights, excluding 224 domestic flights, for himself since April 2010.

Oosthuizen allegedly spent about R1.1-million for 105 flights from April 1 2010. The complaints were lodged by Democratic Alliance sport spokesperson Winston Rabotapi.

In her report titled “The Cost of Travel”, Madonsela said she had found no specific yardstick for measuring whether international and domestic flights could be categorised as excessive, as government officials were mandated to “exercise discretionary powers”.

Madonsela said due to a lack of adverse findings against the pair, she would not initiate remedial action.

“I hope that minister Mbalula and deputy minister Oosthuizen, in exercising their discretionary powers to decide which trips to attend and how much resources to invest in each trip, they also take into account the austerity measures by the minister of finance,” she said. “I am pleased that none of the parties involved challenged my jurisdiction or powers and they have all accepted my findings without any reservations.”

Dhlomo helicopter use
In another report, titled “Ambulance Ethics”, Madonsela investigated allegations that KwaZulu-Natal health MEC Sibongiseni Dhlomo commandeered an air ambulance to attend a funeral in Hlabisa, about 370km from Durban. 

This was alleged to have caused the death of a child injured in a car accident, according to the complaint by DA provincial leader Sizwe Mchunu. He alleged that Dhlomo did not lodge a flight plan with the relevant authorities. He used the helicopter to attend to his “private interests”, which may have included campaigning for the Hlabisa municipal by-elections, held in December 2012.

Madonsela said Dhlomo did not dispute using the helicopter to attend the funeral. She established that Dhlomo’s main reason for visiting Hlabisa was to address residents at the funeral about an incident, which had taken place at the Hlabisa hospital. This would have been impossible to achieve in a day, considering the vastness of the area and its bad roads. Madonsela found Dhlomo did not violate the Executive Ethics Code.

Madonsela said provincial authorities had responded “expeditiously using ground vehicles” to accident involving the child. “There is no evidence that indicates that the emergency medical helicopter used by the MEC on the day in question was required for that emergency, or any other,” Madonsela said. – Sapa

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