Why Cachalia was sacked

2011-02-12 15:59

Limpopo Premier Cassel Mathale fired arguably his best-performing MEC, Saad Cachalia, because of differences over control of public funds and Cachalia’s stance against what he considered to be unnecessary expenditure , according to sources in government and the ANC.
The sources said relations ­between the two men soured a few months after Mathale assumed the top seat because Cachalia, the treasury MEC, and his former head of department, Rob Tooley, resisted political pressure to allocate additional funds to projects they felt were neither a priority for the province or would amount to unwarranted spending.

Among these projects was a request to ­establish a TV studio in the premier’s office.

Cachalia was first appointed as treasury MEC by the former premier and current Congress of the People Limpopo chairperson, Sello Moloto, in November 2006.

He was pushed out at the end of last month alongside the former MEC for health and social development, Miriam ­Segabutla.

The latter’s axing was widely welcomed as accusations of the unfair allocation of tenders, nepotism and maladministration had dogged her term.

Yet Cachalia’s provincial treasury office has received a clean audit report for the past two years.
City Press sources – including four senior bureaucrats, two provincial ANC leaders and two mid-level government officials – said Cachalia repeatedly questioned financial requests made by the premier’s office, municipalities and state-owned enterprises.

Sources said these incidents could have sealed their (Cachalia and Tooley’s) fate:
» A R40-million bid to establish a TV studio in Mathale’s office;

» R90 million requested by the ­local government and housing ­department for the purchase of land in Lephalale;

» R20 million for the Polokwane municipality to market the province’s hosting of the 2010 soccer World Cup to foreign countries;

» A request to facilitate a multibillion-rand loan facility from the ­Development Bank of Southern Africa on behalf of Roads Agency Limpopo (RAL);

» The awarding of a R20-million contract to FNB as the new provincial government banker; and

» R60 million requested by the Mopani district municipality to help address a water crisis in the area.

In 2009 Mathale pledged to help raise funds to address the ­water crisis in his home region of Mopani.

City Press reported last year that R25 million meant for boreholes and to repair water- pumping machines in the region had been used to lobby for votes for mayor Joshua Matlou.

In their response, Tooley and Cachalia argued that money to address the Mopani water crisis had to come from the national disaster fund. The district had to apply to national government.

Among other issues, they found no need for a multi-year loan facility for RAL because it already ­received funds annually from the provincial roads and transport department.

They also noted that Absa, the provincial government banker since 1994, had done a good job and there was no need to change banks. FNB has since been appointed as the provincial banker.

It is unclear whether the other three requests have been approved.

A senior government official said: “It was inevitable that Saad was going to be taken away. They just did not know how to do it ­because he had run a tight ship and performed very well.”

Phuti Mosomane, Mathale’s spokesperson, refused to respond to questions about Cachalia’s sacking.

“The reasons for the changes in the executive council are as set (out) in our media statement announcing the new appointments. We are distancing ourselves from your claims and limit comment to our media statement,” he said.

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