Monday 2020-09-28

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E17 MILLION 50/50 CELEBRATIONS DISASTER

By SIFISO DLAMINI | 2020-09-04

THE audit of the utilisation of the 50/50 double celebration resource mobilisation account has unearthed glaring irregularities as funds have allegedly been looted and government procedures broken.

The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) members yesterday were left in shock and disappointment as they deliberated on a number of issues regarding what they themed as fraudulent practices and lack of accountability from the ministry of home affairs.

The committee further requested the police to be roped in to investigate a number of issues. These include the lack of specific guidelines to regulate the utilisation of the funds held in the unregulated resource mobilisation special account.

Also the flouting of procurement procedures, payment of over E1.5 million to civil servants unlawfully supplying government, payment of over E5.6 million for decorations as well as the poorly supported and recorded payment of well over E600 000 for over-priced groceries, to name a few.

This unfolded during the ministry of home affairs PAC public hearing in Parliament yesterday.

 Queries

In one of the audit queries flagged in the auditor general’s report, it is stated  that a resource mobilisation special account numbered 9110002365661 which was opened at the Standard Bank for monies donated towards financing costs for the of the 50/50 double celebration was not regulated as there were no guidelines.

"There were no regulations to govern the inflow and outflow of the cash donations which amounted to E16 992 415.50. I also reported my concern that there was no clarity on what would happen to the account balance of E327 655.45 as of March 2019," he reported.

PAC Chairperson Matsanjeni North MP Phila Buthelezi enquired how the ministry would have approved for the payment of suppliers with the funds while there were no guidelines in place.

The Ministry's Controlling Officer, PS Nhlanhla Nxumalo, said the idea of opening the special account was to avoid  the funds  being deposited into the government consolidated fund due to the need for the funds to be readily accessible.

The Principal Accountant, Felizwe Dlamini, said after the mobilisation committee was launched the ministry together with its senior official and accountant general decided on how to best regulate the payment of suppliers.

"We all agreed to formulate draft guidelines to regulate and utilise the account," he said. He stated that issues emerged when the accountant general declined to authorise payments as there was no approved guidelines and only a draft document.

The auditor general also reported his concern that the ministry  did not follow public procurement procedures when engaging suppliers for catering services amounting to over E2.7 million, in respect of the double celebrations.

Further investigation revealed that some of the companies that were engaged were owned by public officers, which was a violation of Part VI, Section 60(2) of the Public Procurement Act of 2011. The  section clearly states that officers and politicians should not participate as tenderers in public procurement.

One of the three companies being Prompt Response (PTY) Ltd, where one of the directors was employed as a senior parliamentary council, had furnished the ministry with multiple letters announcing his resignation as a director.

Buthelezi noted that two of the three letters had the same address for both the sender and receiver.

"This is a joke. It is clear that this person was still the director as this is just meaningless paperwork," he said.

MP Oneboy Zikalala said this was a cause for concern as during national celebrations, people took advantage and looted millions of public funds.

"The problem here ngilokutsi kuyadliswana, people within the system call their friends to register companies in order to line their pockets with public funds," he said. The committee also reacted in shock after discovering that over E5.6 million was paid to a local decoration company registered as Africa Drum Event Management without proper authorisation.

The payment of the funds as reflected in the account bank statements. there was no original source document such as payment vouchers, purchase orders, invoices, delivery notes, quotations and a contract.

The AG further reported to the controlling officer that a payment of over E600 000 to Mthabi's Groceries for the supply of groceries was unsupported.

The committee expressed their disbelief after learning that some of the supplies commodities were marked up by over 300 per cent. The committee wondered how a supplier who was said to be cheap charged E169 for 1kg chicken. The committee further listed the grocery as one of the destinations to be toured after this year’s sessions.

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