Scopa toothless: DA

By Drum Digital
27 November 2013

Scopa was set up to act as a watchdog over the way taxpayers' money is spent by the executive.

Parliament's public accounts committee (Scopa) is a toothless watchdog and its chairman ineffective, says the Democratic Alliance.

"The sad truth is Scopa has become a side show," DA MP Dion George, the party's representative on the committee, told journalists at Parliament.

Releasing a report on wasteful government spending -- which the DA pegs at a "conservative" R9.57 billion since 2009 -- he said Scopa chairman Themba Godi did not take a strong enough stance against government corruption.

"We need to put the teeth back into Scopa... until we've [done this]... the people's money will continue to be stolen," George said.

Among its powers is the committee can recommend to the National Assembly that corrective action be taken against wasteful spending and financial mismanagement.

DA MP Ian Ollis said Scopa, under Godi's chairmanship, had been unable and unwilling to take the necessary and punitive steps to ensure that government ministers were made to answer for wasting public money.

"It has been completely toothless and has undermined the effectiveness of Parliament," he said.

The DA's Sej Motau said Scopa needed a stronger, more independent chair if it was to properly fulfil its mandate.

His party would formulate a plan "to turn Scopa around" in the next few weeks, he said.

According to the DA, government's wasteful spending over the past five years -- over and above the wasteful and fruitless expenditure of R5.780bn identified by the Auditor General earlier this year -- includes:

-- R1.45m on credit cards;

-- R47.08m on new cars;

-- R333.40m on catering and entertainment;

-- R9.49m (since 2012) on car rentals;

-- R5.28m (2013 only) on budget vote cocktails; and

-- R165.84m on flights and accommodation.

George took a dim view of the misuse and waste of taxpayers' money by some government departments.

"There are many accounting officers who should be jailed if you look at what they've been doing with public money," he said.

Ollis was dismissive of Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan's announcement last month -- on the occasion of his Medium Term Budget Policy Statement -- that government was set to cut costs and abuse of funds.

While Gordhan should be lauded for trying, the announcement was essentially a "five-month belt-tightening exercise" done ahead of next year's election, and aimed at diverting attention from five years of wasteful spending.

-by Sapa

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