Pub­lic Works’ R134m splurge

DA con­demns ‘waste’

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - NEWS - CAIPHUS KGOSANA

DEPART­MENT of Pub­lic Works of­fi­cials, in­clud­ing the min­is­ter, Ge­off Doidge, and his deputy, Hen­dri­etta Bo­gopane-Zulu, splurged R134 mil­lion on trav­el­ling, ac­com­mo­da­tion and restau­rants since April last year, with R34m spent within the past six months.

This is the same depart­ment that was fingered by Au­di­torGen­eral Ter­ence Nombe­mbe for buy­ing R40m worth of soft­ware which has been gath­er­ing dust for years.

The depart­ment re­vealed in a par­lia­men­tary ques­tion that staff travel, ho­tel ac­com­mo­da­tion and restau­rant ex­penses amounted to a whop­ping R100m in the 2008/09 fi­nan­cial year, a R2m jump from the pre­vi­ous fi­nan­cial year.

This is de­spite the cur­rent and for­mer fi­nance min­is­ters – Pravin Gord­han and Trevor Manuel re­spec­tively – call­ing for belt-tight­en­ing and curb­ing wastage.

The depart­ment has al­ready spent R34m be­tween April and Oc­to­ber this year. How­ever, if the depart­ment spends the same amount in the next six months to the end of the fi­nan­cial year in March, it is likely to dras­ti­cally de­crease its en­ter­tain­ment bud­get com­pared to the pre­vi­ous fi­nan­cial years.

DA shadow min­is­ter of pub­lic works James Masango, who posed the par­lia­men­tary ques­tion, con­demned the ex­pen­di­ture as waste­ful, but the depart­ment has de­fended the hefty bill. It said this was within bud­get and that trav­el­ling was for of­fi­cial pur­poses.

How­ever, the depart­ment said it had now in­tro­duced cost­sav­ing mea­sures to curb trav­el­ling, ac­com­mo­da­tion and restau­rant costs.

Doidge’s travel and ac­com­mo­da­tion ex­penses amount to about R1.3m in a year, while Bo­gopane-Zulu’s travel and ac­com­mo­da­tion ex­penses amounted to R200 000 be­tween May and Oc­to­ber this year.

De­part­men­tal spokesman Koketso Sachane said the min­is­ter had taken full cog­ni­sance of the need to cut costs given the cur­rent eco­nomic cli­mate and said mea­sures had now been put in place to en­sure that money was spent pru­dently.

Nombe­mbe gave the depart­ment a qual­i­fied au­dit be­cause of a num­ber of in­ef­fi­cien­cies in the man­age­ment of fi­nances and as­sets.

Th­ese in­clude the waste­ful pur­chase of R40m worth of soft­ware which is not be­ing used, fail­ure to re­coup R419m owed to the depart­ment for leas­ing build­ings on be­half of other gov­ern­ment de­part­ments, late pay­ment of sup­pli­ers and an in­abil­ity to ac­count for de­part­men­tal as­sets worth R249m. Doidge has since ap­pointed Simeka Con­sult­ing to con­duct a thor­ough clean-up of the depart­ment’s books.

The depart­ment has an­nounced that it has turned the screws on na­tional and pro­vin­cial de­part­ments to re­cover the R419m.

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