Bust budget ends the party at department

2011-11-26 16:55

There will be no Christmas party or catering and entertainment until the new financial year begins in April.

This was the message given to employees of the Free State human settlements department following the depletion of its budget for this year.

The department is already in the red, with overspending expected to exceed R1?billion by the end of March.

The department’s financial crisis came to light during a meeting with the portfolio committee for public accounts in the Free State legislature this week, when the department had to account for losing a housing grant of R263 million.

Human Settlements Minister Tokyo Sexwale stripped the department of its grant after it failed to meets its delivery targets for the 2010/11 financial year.

Provincial department head Mpho Mokoena said the department had serious cash flow problems and had overcommitted itself.

Following the budget revelation, officials who spoke to City Press said they were not surprised that there would be no Christmas party this year as it was “nothing new”.

“We have been plagued by cost-containment measures for years now,” said one official.

Departmental spokesperson Senne Bogatsu confirmed that the Treasury had put a lid on the big departmental parties that used to take place at the end of each year.

At the legislature hearing, Mokoena was also asked to explain why the department had paid more than R21 million to Dihlabeng local municipality projects without checking if supply chain management processes were being followed.

One of the projects paid for was an Operation Hlasela project, which is part of a poverty relief initiative run from the office of Premier Ace Magashule.

Opposition parties have asked Public Protector Thuli Madonsela to investigate all projects linked to
Operation Hlasela.

Mokoena said payments made without procedural checks being followed by the municipality were an oversight on the part of the department.

As part of ongoing trouble in handling its finances, Sexwale’s office also ordered the department to stop making advance payments to construction companies.

Last year, the department made advance payments of R482 million to various firms.

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