Public works wants findings 'clarified'

2012-11-28 16:40
Public Protector Thuli Madonsela (Picture: Beeld)

Public Protector Thuli Madonsela (Picture: Beeld)

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Johannesburg - Public Works Minister Thulas Nxesi plans to meet the public protector to "clarify" findings in a report relating to the accommodation of Agriculture Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson.

In a statement, the department said it took the findings "very seriously" as they pertained to public works.

On Monday, Public Protector Thuli Madonsela said President Jacob Zuma should consider reprimanding Joemat-Pettersson for violating the executive ethics code.

She found that the department's acting director general should recover about R150 000 which the minister incurred for return flights for her two children and their au pair from Sweden to South Africa in January 2010.

The minister travelled to Sweden on official business in December 2009. The trip was combined with a family holiday, which started on 23 December, at the end of her official trip.

Joemat-Pettersson had to cut the holiday short when the presidency recalled her. She returned on 1 January 2010.

The Public Protector also investigated whether Joemat-Pettersson used public funds to pay for expensive accommodation at hotels while she was awaiting the allocation of her official residences in Cape Town and Pretoria.

The minister stayed at the 28A On Oxford Guest House from 13 June to 11 July 2010, at a cost of R420 000, and at the Peermont D'Oreale Grande Hotel, at a cost of R289 352.

Joemat-Pettersson had not been allocated an official residence at the time.

Madonsela recommended that public works fast-track the refurbishment of Joemat-Pettersson's official residence in Cape Town.

She said the minister had been severely affected by the delay in providing accommodation.

"The department [of public works] concurs with the public protector that the accommodation crisis faced by Minister Joemat-Pettersson... has its origins in the inability of public works promptly to provide official accommodation," Nxesi said.

"This was due to the increased demand for ministerial accommodation after the 2009 election, the absence of transitional housing arrangements, and the tardy performance of public works in renovating and preparing housing for occupation."

He said the challenges were recognised at an early stage of the turnaround process, which was initiated at the beginning of this year.

"Concrete" actions being taken by the department included the establishment of a joint technical team to oversee "prestige" projects, recruiting experienced professionals from the private sector to review the business processes, and the re-organisation and upgrade of the property division of the public works department.

Nxesi said it was also drawing up guidelines to control expenditure in the "prestige portfolio".

He said he was concerned that Madonsela had proposed that a minister's accommodation be removed to a special unit elsewhere, as such duties fell outside "my competency".

"I am concerned... that the public protector is quoted as having proposed that such [a] special unit should also be responsible for security upgrades - as in the case of the president's residence at Nkandla," said Nxesi.

"Given that the public protector is still investigating this specific project, it appears premature to issue recommendations in advance of the findings of the investigation."

Read more on:    public works  |  tina joemat-pettersson  |  thulas nxesi  |  jacob zuma  |  thuli madonsela

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