/ 24 August 2021

Four officials suspended over R124m wasted by defence department

The auditor general’s investigation into the finances of the department of defence and military veterans showed that R1.5-billion was unaccounted for.Gallo Images)

The defence and military veterans department, which suffered more than R124-million in irregular, fruitless and wasteful expenditure, conceded on Tuesday that its bursary programme for veterans’ children was beset with bad management. 

Four senior managers have been placed on precautionary suspension, Defence and Military Veterans Deputy Minister Thabang Makwetla told a briefing in Tshwane. Their suspension has been effected in terms of guidelines set out in a Public Service Commission (PSC) report on disciplinary measures to be meted out to civil servants over poor performance.

The PSC’s intervention followed a 2019-20 annual report for the military veterans department, which showed that it had incurred more than R124-million in irregular, fruitless and wasteful expenditure

The four unnamed officials were suspended by the department’s director general Irene Mpolweni, Makwetla said, adding that the department would adhere to a 60-day deadline it had set itself to conclude investigations into the employees.

“The Public Service Commission also makes the point that reports on financial misconduct submitted by the department for the 2019-20 financial year to the PSC ‘does not reflect whether consequence management [disciplinary action] was or will be imposed against the perpetrators that committed irregular, fruitless and wasteful expenditure,” Makwetla said, adding that the PSC and the department would collaborate to overcome the challenges.

He acknowledged that the PSC had identified bad management in the bursary scheme for children of military veterans.

“It is for that reason that we are here today, after a meeting we had with the Public Service Commision, to look at the performance of the management of the department,” Makwetla said.

The department’s newly appointed director general would ensure that, henceforth, there was consequence management in the department, “and things are done according to the prescripts”, the deputy minister added.