Public protector: Money for water, mud-schools rerouted for Mandela funeral T-shirts

Public protector Busi Mkhwebane has recommended that President Jacob Zuma task the special investigations unit (SIU) with probing the unlawful, irregular, intentional or negligent expenditure of R300-million for memorial services following former president Nelson Mandela’s funeral.

Mkhwebane found “poor planning” at all levels of government for Madiba’s funeral, which happened five years ago in Qunu, Eastern Cape.

Her recommendations include that the finance minister set out guidelines for state funerals and that the national treasury cost the entire event before funds are released.

In the Eastern Cape, officials from the provincial government, state entities and local government were implicated in the mismanagement of funds for the memorial services.

The money was spent by the provincial government, Eastern Cape Development Corporation (ECDC), Buffalo City metro, Nelson Mandela Bay metro and King Sabata Dalindyebo district municipalities.

Mkhwebane released her #MadibaFuneral report at her headquarters in Pretoria on Monday afternoon.

She found that “money meant for infrastructure and social development in the Eastern Cape, the provision of running water, electricity, sanitation, the replacement of mud schools and the refurbishment of hospitals” was used to buy t-shirts and to transport mourners as well as pay for catering at memorial services.

Her investigation also uncovered the unauthorised payment of government funds to service providers without supporting documentation and gross overpricing by suppliers who were not on the municipal database.

“How do you charge R350 for a t-shirt? Yes officials are supposed to be following the public finance management act (PFMA), but service providers, where is your conscious for charging the state so much money for a t-shirt? It’s very concerning,” Mkhwebane said.

Mkhwebane described the non-compliance to the PFMA as “very scary” and “appalling”, and questioned why officials took instructions from ANC leaders instead of municipal bosses.

“It’s very concerning where you find an email sent to ECDC told to pay 11 million by 11 o’clock, and the documents will follow,” she said in Pretoria.

“In other instances, even the invoices were written on the letterhead of the ANC. That’s the attitude of saying I’ve got two masters, the ANC and the municipality, forgetting that as an official of government you must perform in terms of the PFMA,” Mkhwebane added.

The public protector also recommended that the provincial treasury institute an investigation into how its former head of department approved the allocation of funds, while the Buffalo City and Nelson Mandela Bay municipal managers should investigate the money spent on the funeral activities.

Regarding the R250 000 paid into the private bank account of the Eastern Cape premier, Phumulo Masualle, by the treasury, Mkhwebane found that “the current premier has done nothing wrong. The money was deposited into his personal account, not of his own doing. He requested that the money be reversed”.

Govan Whittles

Govan Whittles is a general news and political multimedia journalist at the Mail & Guardian. Born in King William's Town in the Eastern Cape, he cut his teeth as a radio journalist at Primedia Broadcasting. He produced two documentaries and one short film for the Walter Sisulu University, and enjoys writing about grassroots issues, national politics, identity, heritage and hip-hop culture.

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