What next after findings?

2014-03-20 00:00

IN terms of Thuli Madonsela’s findings, and the constitutional powers of the Public Protector’s office, the money wasted at Nkandla must be counted and paid back — much by the president himself; all ministers involved must be reprimanded and their staff’s actions investigated; and benefits for executive leaders be limited in future.

Specifically, the order means the president must:

• find out how much taxpayers’ money was spent for the visitors’ centre, cattle kraal, chicken run, swimming pool, amphitheatre and other non-security measures at Nkandla, within the overall cost of R246 million. He must do so with the help of the Treasury and police service;

• personally repay the state a “reasonable percentage” of the money blown on these items, with the help of the Treasury (the Mail & Guardian has already calculated these items to have cost at least R20 million);

• reprimand all ministers involved for the “appalling” manner in which public funds were “abused” at Nkandla;

• formally report his “intentions” and “remedial action” following the findings to Parliament before April 3 — and notify Madonsela’s office beforehand.

Meanwhile, both the Department of Public Works and the SAPS must:

• conduct an immediate investigation to identify all officials who were or are involved with Nkandla, and decide whether disciplinary action should be taken against them.

The Director-General of Public Works must also:

• determine exactly how much was overspent at Nkandla — and how much must be “recovered” by the state — by hiring a reputable security consultant to assess what should have been spent for legitimate security measures;

• determine to what extent the SAPS and Department of Defence must be held “liable” for gross overspending at Nkandla.

In addition:

• The Secretary of the Cabinet must regularly remind Cabinet ministers about the limits of “enjoying executive benefits” in terms of the country’s laws and policies;

• The Department of Defence must — within six months — produce rules which limit publicly funded opulence for the most powerful officials. Specifically, they must regulate benefits for presidents, deputy presidents, ministers and deputy ministers of defence, and foreign dignitaries “which is aligned with the principles of equality, proportionality, reasonableness and justifiability”;

• The Minister of Police must conduct an “urgent” review of the National Key Points Act to check whether it should apply to post-apartheid presidential privileges.

• It also requires that all further public spending at Nkandla stop immediately, unless it can be shown to be absolutely necessary; and

•All directors-general involved must provide Madonsela with an implementation plan to recover the money and fix the policies prior to May 1.

Significantly, Madonsela also pointed to the fact that citizens would have been saved “millions” had the president and public works minister heeded warnings in the media — specifically a report by the Mail & Guardian in 2009 — that the cost of the Nkandla upgrade at the time was excessive at R65 million and likely to rise quickly.

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