R131?mln spent for ‘ghost’ projects

2013-10-23 00:00

AGRICULTURE and Environmental Affairs MEC Meshack Radebe has painted a depressing picture of his department.

Radebe and his officials revealed to the Standing Committee on Public Accounts (Scopa) — the KwaZulu-Natal legislature’s oversight body on public spending — that more than R131 million had been paid for non-existent projects.

He said several forensic investigations had been launched into companies that were irregularly awarded tenders with millions being spent.

Radebe listed examples of the irregularly awarded tenders to Scopa.

“You find there was a project of R47 million. You go there and you find nothing, but money has been spent,” he said.

“You [also] find a project of R84 million. You go there and find nothing,” Radebe said.

He said millions were spent on agricultural equipment in 2011 that was not used for years, referring to R5 million in equipment, seeds and fertiliser found rotting and rusting at department offices in Inchanga last December.

Radebe said he was committed to cleaning up corruption in the department in the remaining months before his term ended.

The auditor-general (A-G) gave the department an unqualified audit opinion with matters of emphasis for a fifth consecutive year. The A-G found tenders were awarded to some family members close to officials who never disclosed their business interests, as well as 14 officials who performed paid work outside their employment without approval.

Radebe said cases were due to be referred to law enforcement agencies.

Acting head of department Yasmin Bacus said the department was reviewing its policies on compliance and enforcement.

Scopa member Sipho Gcabashe of the ANC demanded action be taken against responsible officials.

Scopa chairman Sipho Nkosi said: “They must be tackled. If they have to be taken out of the system, the better for our people.”

Radebe promised to turn the department around, pointing out that he had been an MEC for hardly more than two years and that one MEC had at one stage organised a prayer service to ward off the department’s troubles.

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