Funeral: ex-MEC sued

2009-12-14 00:00

FORMER KZN Agriculture MEC Professor Gabriel Ndabandaba, his former head of department, Jabulani Mjwara, and department official Raj Singh are being sued by the provincial government for R126 506,56 — the money spent on a memorial and funeral service for Ndabandaba’s son, who died in a plane crash in 2005.

The three were served with high court summons last week, notifying them of the pending action and giving them 21 days to file answering papers.

According to the provincial government, payment for the funeral falls outside the ambit of the Public Finance Management Act. Singh is being surcharged because he signed for and approved payment for the funeral and memorial service.

Ndabandaba is accused of accepting the benefits “to which he knew he was not entitled”. Mjwara is accused of failing, as accounting officer, to play his oversight role in ensuring that there was no unauthorised and irregular expenditure.

Ndabandaba’s son, an airforce pilot, died in a crash at an air show in Vereening and a memorial service and funeral were held at the International Convention Centre (ICC) in Durban.

Three years later, in July 2008, Singh was charged with wilful and negligent mismanagement of state finances and faced a disciplinary hearing over the funeral expenditure.

At the time of Singh’s hearing, Ndabandaba denied that he instructed the department to pay for his son’s funeral. He said at the time that he was at his son’s house in Centurion soon after the air crash, trying to sort out matters and make funeral arrangements. Mjwara arrived at the house and said he was sent by the then premier, S’bu Ndebele, to convey the condolences of the province and ask what they could do to help.

According to Ndabandaba, he was having a problem getting a venue for the funeral as his church, the Emmanual Cathedral in Durban, was booked. He said Mjwara assured him they would arrange a venue and he was later told that the ICC had been secured for the funeral.

The former MEC, now an MP, said about a year later Dr Zweli Mkhize, who was the then MEC for Finance, approached him with the allegation that the department had paid the funeral expenses. He said he told him what had happened and followed this up with a letter. He said he had also been approached by the team who were conducting a forensic investigation into the Agriculture Department.

Ndabandaba could not be reached at the weekend to find out whether he will be defending the action. Nor could Mjwara and Singh be contacted. However, sources said they will be filing papers.

How the R126 506,76 was spent:

Hire of the ICC R18 830

Hire of the Durban Exhibition Centre R26 681,20

Payment of catering, security and soft drinks to the ICC R25 326,56

Catering to Sayoni Business Enterprise R39 045,00

PA system, technician to the ICC R5 177,00

Candle and candle stand (Decorlite Trading CC) R85,00

Hotel accommodation for six Agriculture Department staff members involved in the logistics for the service R11 362,00

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