Testing time for Royal Trust

2015-11-18 15:18
King Goodwill Zwelithini (Siyabonga Masonkutu, The Witness)

King Goodwill Zwelithini (Siyabonga Masonkutu, The Witness)

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Pietermaritzburg - The provincial auditor-general has cast doubt on the Royal Household Trust’s “ability to operate as a going ­concern”, after the discovery that the trust’s liabilities exceed its assets by R3,2 million.

This is revealed in the trust’s annual report (see sidebar), which is expected to come before the KZN Legislature’s Standing Committee on Public ­Accounts (Scopa) soon.

The trust falls under the Office of the Premier, whose own Scopa hearings, and therefore that of the trust, have been postponed twice.

The first postponement was due to the legislature having a sitting in ­Northern KZN, while the second, a week later and days before the KZN ANC ­provincial elective conference held in ­Pietermaritzburg, was postponed just minutes before it was to begin.

The annual report, which covers the reporting period of 2014/15, showed that the “Royal Household Expenses” ­included R263 000 spent on groceries, R293 000 on cellphone costs, R4,2 million on events, R818 000 on ­education, R1,5 million for a “Stipend to Royal Family”, and R628 000 on ­travelling expenses.

Meanwhile, the report adds that the state’s failure to finance King Goodwill Zwelithini’s 2014 wedding to Queen ­Zola Mafu had damaged the monarch’s reputation.

While it is unlikely the trust will fail, as it is almost entirely funded by the ­provincial government, Judge Jerome Ngwenya, a key adviser to the king and who was chairperson of the trust until earlier this year, wrote candidly and ­revealed that the trust had been shown little regard by the provincial government; a trend he hopes will be reversed.

“When the outgoing board took office, in 2009, while the trust as a legal entity was in place there were no trustees and therefore the trust was existing only in name.

“There were few documents ­prepared by the Office of the Premier. In them one can tease out what the then Premier perceived the role of the trust to be. Nothing further has been done based on these documents,” said Ngwenya, adding he has “in the past pleaded for political leadership in the administration of the trust”.

“My view on this was based on the fact that there are diverse and conflicting views of the role of the trust.

“When I refer to political leadership I assume that the Premier will reach a common understanding with His Majesty and the Royal Family as to what the role of the trust is.”

Ngwenya said there was a gulf ­between the king and the royal family’s understanding of the trust, while the officials and the premier and executive each had different views. He also reveals how the trust’s allocated budget, which was controlled by the now closed Royal Household Department until March this year, was consistently reduced; a key reason Ngwenya cited for why the trust could not pay for the king’s wedding. He said the change in funding allocation made it difficult to budget.

His report also took aim at the ­auditor-general. In 2014 Ngwenya ­submitted a formal request to the ­Premier’s Office that it should pay the cost of the king’s wedding. But at the time the auditor-general’s office said it was “not the mandate of the Office of the Premier to cater for the person of the king”, but rather that of the trust.

Ngwenya said the lack of funding for the wedding had “a huge image ­repercussion to the royal family”. It was widely reported that several service providers to the wedding were not paid.

But Ngwenya said the provincial ­government’s failure to transfer the ­allocated budget to the trust was the ­reason why the trust was left with ­“unpaid and unhappy service providers”.

“I reluctantly felt compelled … to ­declare a dispute through the Office of Premier … to recover what is rightfully due to the trust,” he said.

Ngwenya said the trust would not “enjoy reasonable autonomy from ­government” as long as it “remains wholly dependent” on government.

THE Royal Household Trust renders administrative support to the ­family of King Goodwill Zwelithini.

It is incorporated within the Office of the Premier, which absorbed the staff and budget responsibilities of the now closed Department of the Royal Household as of April 2015. The upkeep of the king’s ­palaces is the responsibility of the Royal Household Trust.

In addition, the trust provides for other costs such as tuition fees, transportation and medical ­expenses for the royal family.

Read more on:    king goodwill zwelithini  |  pietermaritzburg  |  scopa

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