MEC Mmemezi quits, blames officials over credit card abuse

2012-07-12 00:00

DISGRACED Gauteng MEC for Local Government and Housing Humphrey Mmemezi has blamed officials in his office for misleading him about how he was entitled to use a government credit card.

In a statement announcing his resignation, released through the ANC Gauteng provincial office, Mmemezi said he deeply regretted “an error of judgment on my part”.

Key among allegations levelled at Mmemezi and reported in the Star was that he had used a government credit card for personal purchases, including expensive clothes on an overseas official trip and groceries at a Krugersdorp supermarket.

He bought a painting worth R10 000 through a McDonalds fast-food outlet in Pretoria and had failed to report an accident in a government car that was badly damaged and had to be sold at a cheap price.

Mmemezi said: “From the briefing I received from officials in my department on the use of the corporate credit card and the ambiguity of the Ministerial Handbook, I got the impression that I could use the credit card for both official and personal purchases, as long as I could repay the department where there are personal expenses.

“It is for this reason that I deeply regret that I used the credit to pay for the suits in India, the groceries … and the artwork in the office.”

Mmemezi apologised to the people of Gauteng and said he had refunded government for all credit card expenses long before the matter became public.

But he alleged an unfair witch-hunt, saying some of the allegations were “patently false” and “intended to damage my public standing and that of my organisation and government”.

Among the allegations is that when he was a human resources manager at Mogale City Municipality he inflated his daughter’s salary.

He has threatened legal steps because “the allegation that I didn’t report the car accident remains false. Some of the expenditure items published as costs incurred by me, such as the trip to London, is also false.

“All the allegations about my work in Mogale City are also blatantly untrue”.

Labour federation Cosatu welcomed Mmemezi’s resignation, though it said it regretted that “he has taken so long to do so given the damage that has been inflicted on the reputation of the provincial government”.

The union said Mmemezi’s claim that he had misunderstood the Ministerial Handbook “reinforces the federation’s long-standing demand for the thorough revision of the Ministerial Handbook to spell out unambiguously the rules for the use of public money, so that ministers and officials know precisely what is and is not permitted and cannot ‘get the impression’ that the rules allow them to abuse the people’s money”.

The government appointed a task team to review the Ministerial Handboook in 2009 amid a public outcry over the spending spree on luxury cars by new ministers, but the team it yet to complete the job.

While Cosatu said it stood by the position that any citizen is innocent until proved guilty and had not passed judgement on Mmemezi, the federation wants the allegations to be fully investigated.

“We note that Comrade Mmemezi strenuously denies some of the allegations, but has conceded that others, particularly those relating to the misuse of the credit card, are valid.”

The union called on other public office bearers who stand accused of similar offences to follow Mmemezi’s example and step down while the allegations are investigated.

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