Scopa grills public officials

2009-08-07 22:11

Cape Town - Public officials are not taking action against the "wrongs" in their departments, the chairperson of Parliament's Standing Committee on Public Accounts said on Friday.

Themba Godi made the remarks in Parliament after Scopa MPs had grilled director generals and commissioners from 12 departments on what action they had taken against government employees who received R74m worth of state contracts without approval.

"There is no sense of taking responsibility in any energetic way to correct the wrong happenings in departments," Godi said.

"We are not happy with what we have heard. The picture that came through is not good."

Little department approval

Scopa had based its questions on a report by the Auditor-General which found that 49 senior state employees did R35.7m in business with national departments in the 2005/6 financial year.

Only three employees had approval from the departments that employed them to perform remunerative work outside their official duties.

Employees who were directors or members of companies who had failed to declare their outside interests did R30.6m of business in the year.

Correctional services tender

A dossier, that has not been made public, was given to Scopa earlier this week by the Auditor-General.

The Mail&Guardian newspaper reported that Tozama Mqobi-Balfour, the wife of former correctional services minister Ngconde Balfour, was one person who benefited from business with the department.

Mqobi-Balfour is the Gauteng commissioner of correctional services.

According to the Auditor-General's report, business worth more than R1m was awarded to four companies belonging to correctional services officials.

The newspaper reported that Wawona Investments, of which Mqobi-Balfour is a director, was awarded a R14 000 tender by the prisons department.

According to a recent media report, Mqobi-Balfour used taxpayers' money to rent a house for R30 000 a month in the upmarket Woodhill golf estate in Pretoria, despite having the use of a government-funded house.

Acting commissioner of correctional affairs Jenny Schreiner told the committee that "significant improvements on systemic issues" had been made in monitoring at the department.

Godi said each time the department appeared before Scopa "the situation looked worse than before".

"That is why these commitments can be taken with a pinch of salt," Godi said.

Employees from the transport and education departments were also targeted by Scopa.

- SAPA

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