Madiba memorial splurge

2014-03-23 14:00

Mpumalanga government’s R70m spending spree left it out of pocket and unable to pay its staff.

Mpumalanga’s provincial government has admitted to spending R70?million on Nelson Mandela’s memorial services, but exactly how the money was spent has now become the subject of two investigations by the legislature and the Auditor-General.

At a press conference intended to “set the record straight”, a four-member Mpumalanga cabinet budget committee insisted the provincial government said it had received value for its money.

But it said there was no time to follow proper procurement procedure because of the urgent nature of the event, which led to it selecting service providers from its database.

Last week, City Press revealed the details of the province’s R70?million spending spree on five Mandela memorial services that were held in the province.

Of that sum, at least R39.8?million was paid to celebrity events planner Carol Bouwer, who owns Carol Bouwer Productions.

The province did not respond to queries from City Press despite being given two weeks to do so. But this week, the cabinet committee said it was surprised and shocked by “loaded” media reports that were intended to tarnish the image of the Mpumalanga government and the ANC.

The committee?–?comprising MECs Madala Masuku (treasury), Candith Mashego-Dlamini (health and social development), Simon Skhosana (cooperative governance) and Vusi Shongwe (safety and security)?–?defended the R39.8?million payment.

It gave an overview of the events budget in which R50?million was for logistics and supplies including venues, marquees, sound systems, audiovisual screens, stages, artists, ­T-shirts and bottled water.

This was awarded to Bouwer.

The information confirms the assertion of government sources that Bouwer was paid about R48?million for the memorials.

City Press could only obtain proof of the ­R39.8?million payment. Catering was allocated R12.5?million and R7.5?million went to transport.

Numerous attempts to obtain comment from Bouwer for more than two weeks yielded no results.

The largest event was held at Mbombela Stadium on December 10.

It involved setting up a stage and sound system, organising TV screens for a live crossing to the national service at Joburg’s FNB Stadium and hiring SA Idols finalists Brenden Ledwaba and Musa Sukwene to perform.

Smaller events took place in Ermelo, Nkomazi and Mkhuhlu, while the Middelburg service was held in the town hall.

Mourners were given a sandwich, an apple and a soft drink.

Skhosana said: “Many service providers were contacted, but Carol Bouwer Productions was the only one that had the capacity to pull off this event in a short time using its own resources. Capacity was also an important consideration when service providers were selected from the database.”

The committee could not provide the names of service providers who refused their offer.

Bruce Kgapane of Ziyaphenduka Productions?–?a company with a track record of handling big events in the country?– said his company was on the Mpumalanga database but was never contacted.

The hiring of companies and payments for the events were managed by provincial director-general Nonhlanhla Mkhize.

The premier’s department spent almost all its budget on the events and could not pay salaries.

Masuku then had to table a special budget adjustment in the legislature last week so that money could be transferred from the social services, public works, cooperative governance, finance and human settlements departments to cover the shortfall.

Masuku would not say if his department had considered the expenditure to be exorbitant.

“For now, we can’t weigh the value?...?we can’t write an exam and mark ourselves. We’ll hear from the legislature if this was value for money,” he said.

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