EM­BASSY SPENDS E2M ‘MIS­TAK­ENLY’ DE­POSITED IN AC­COUNT

Sunday Observer - - NEWS - BY ZWELETHU DLAMINI

De­spite that gov­ern­ment spends nearly E8 mil­lion per an­num on Ethiopian Chancery rentals, Swazi­land’s Am­bas­sador to Ethiopia, Prom­ise Msibi spent E2 mil­lion of E14 mil­lion de­posited to the em­bassy’s ac­count for pur­poses of build­ing or pur­chas­ing of­fice space.

The am­bas­sador blames the min­istry of fi­nance for not ex­plain­ing pur­pose of the mil­lions while the min­istry claims he re­quested the money for the pur­chase or con­struc­tion of houses and chancery which has, to date, not been con­structed nor pur­chased. In­stead, part of the money had been used on op­er­a­tional ex­penses.

In a case rem­i­nis­cent of South African Wal­ter Sisulu Univer­sity stu­dent, Si­bongile Mani who found R14.1 mil­lion wrongly de­posited in into her stu­dent ac­count and spent over R800 000 on friv­o­lous things, the am­bas­sador told the Pub­lic Ac­counts Com­mit­tee (PAC) he was equally sur­prised to find E14 mil­lion de­posited into the em­bassy’s ac­count.

In the case of the stu­dent the money was mis­tak­enly de­posited by the South African Na­tional Stu­dent Fi­nan­cial Aid Scheme (NSFAS). It took more than two months for NSFAS ac­coun­tants to re­alise they are miss­ing R14.1 mil­lion which they only no­ticed af­ter the friends of the stu­dent posted bank bal­ance re­ceipts on Face­book in Au­gust.

Co­in­ci­den­tally, as per the ver­sion of the am­bas­sador, E14 mil­lion was ‘ mis­tak­enly’ de­posited i nto the em­bassy’s ac­count by the min­istry of fi­nance and there was no ex­pla­na­tion on what it was meant for. Msibi told the PAC that since there was no ex­pla­na­tion; the em­bassy as­sumed the money was for of­fice op­er­a­tions while deny­ing that the em­bassy re­quested the fund­ing. The am­bas­sador told the PAC that the em­bassy started spend­ing the money on op­er­a­tional costs of the mis­sion right away and did not seek clar­ity on its pur­pose.

Ap­prox­i­mately

Out of the E14 mil­lion de­posited on April 9 2016, by De­cem­ber 31 last year, the Au­di­tor Gen­eral (AG) found that the em­bassy had spent $ 150 075.28 which is ap­prox­i­mately E1 950 075.

Dur­ing a tele­phonic in­ter­view on Thurs­day with this publi­ca­tion, the am­bas­sador main­tained his po­si­tion that the em­bassy was not aware of the pur­pose of the money.

When asked about his sub­mis­sion on the PAC re­port he said; “Yes, it is as ex­plained in the re­port (PAC) they were no ex­pla­na­tions but since there is a head­quar­ters we can be seen con­tra­dict­ing it, please hold on for the ac­coun­tant he will re­spond to all your ques­tions.”

Con­trary to the am­bas­sador’s sub­missi on t he e mbassy’s Third Sec­re­tary/Ac­coun­tant Vusi Ma­gag­ula said the em­bassy was aware of the money cit­ing that there were doc­u­ments sent to it no­ti­fy­ing them on the de­posit of the E14 mil­lion.

“They had re­quested quo­ta­tions of the houses be­ing sold and the low­est was $15 mil­lion while the high­est was $5mil­lion.

Worth not­ing is that the prop­er­ties are very ex­pen­sive mainly be­cause they were meant for res­i­den­tial rentals not for of­fice use,” Ma­gag­ula ex­plained.

He re­vealed that there were other means that they were ex­plor­ing which would be eco­nomic such as se­cur­ing land of­fered by the host coun­try specif­i­cally for em­bassy.

He em­pha­sised that the rentals were high and the need to pur­chase or build the of­fices which would cut the costs and added that the E14 mil­lion was far less than the av­er­age prop­er­ties sale

In the re­port, the min­istry of fi­nance said the money was sent pro­ce­du­rally af­ter a re­quest from the em­bassy for the pur­poses of build­ing or pur­chas­ing of­fices and houses.

The au­di­tor gen­eral found that the min­istry of for­eign af­fairs and in­ter­na­tional co­op­er­a­tion re­lo­cated the sum of E14 mil­lion from the re­cur­rent bud­get to fi­nance a cap­i­tal project, which was against gov­ern­ment fi­nan­cial and ac­count­ing reg­u­la­tions. The money was re­al­lo­cated from the na­tional in­sur­ance pro­vi­sion and

the author­ity to do so was granted by the Prin­ci­pal Sec­re­tary in the Min­istry of Fi­nance Bheki Bhembe.

The AG dis­cov­ered that the money was trans­ferred to the em­bassy un­der the pre­text that they will be used to buy an of­fice build­ing yet the real pur­pose was to pur­chase diplo­matic staff houses which were also not pur­chased.

The con­trol­ling of­fi­cer in the min­istry of for­eign af­fairs and in­ter­na­tional co­op­er­a­tion ac­knowl­edged the anom­aly and stated that his min­istry has since taken re­me­dial ac­tion for the re­cov­ery of the money.

The min­istry also sub­mit­ted to the PAC that the em­bassy was in­formed about the pur­pose of the money and also pro­duced ev­i­dence sup­port­ing this fact. He fur­ther pro­duced doc­u­mented ev­i­dence prov­ing that the em­bassy had in­deed sub­mit­ted a re­quest for fund­ing for the con­struc­tion or pur­chase of houses and the chancery.

On the other hand Bhembe ex­plained to the PAC that the money was re­leased pro­ce­du­rally.

The PAC then ob­served that the em­bassy was in dire need to pur­chase the chancery as the rentals are high on the leased prop­erty and ad­vised the PS to pre­pare a Cabi­net Pa­per for the min­is­ter on the fi­nal res­o­lu­tion of house con­struc­tion or pur­chas­ing or con­struct­ing the chancery.

Swazi­land’s Am­bas­sador to Ethiopia, Prom­ise Msibi

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