The Eastern Cape Government has officially given notice of its intention to seek a legal review of the Public Protector's report on the alleged misappropriation of public funds earmarked for the funeral of the late former president, Nelson Mandela.
The administration said it had welcomed the long-awaited report by Advocate Busisiwe Mkhwebane, but had taken issue with some key aspects of her findings.
Among them is the figure of R300m which is said to have been spent on the funeral.
Bhisho said this amount is factually incorrect and that the amount, as confirmed by the Auditor-General, was in fact just under R36m.
The Eastern Cape administration said its decision to seek a legal review has been guided by legal advice.
“While the provincial government notes the findings as well as prescribed remedial actions by the Public Protector in respect of this investigation, with the passage of such a long time, a lot of corrective action has already been undertaken by the provincial government,” Bhisho government spokesperson, Sonwabo Mbananga said.
He said that the Bhisho Provincial government also wanted “to place on record some of the areas of concern which cast aspersions on this report.”
Mbananga said that “the figure of R300m said to have been spent on the funeral, is factually incorrect.”
“The Auditor General’s report confirms R35.9m. Further, it is untrue and therefore misleading that the EXCO (under whose auspices the funeral was arranged) diverted R300 million away from poverty alleviation and infrastructure priority programs.”
“At the point of the release of this report, it is not only untrue but defamatory and mischievous to reinforce as fact, that The Hon. Phumulo Masualle, MPL, and MEC for Treasury and Planning at the time benefitted R250 000 of public funds in relation to the funeral,” he said.
Mbananga said that during that period and as part of austerity measures applied across government by the National Treasury, a directive was issued to cancel and or withdraw the Dinner’s Club cards which all Ministers and Premiers previously had access to.
“In the meantime, a decision to release a budget of R250 000 to the MEC was approved. He was going to utilize this budget to fulfil certain responsibilities assigned to him and thereafter submit a report to account. By now it is common knowledge that the MEC returned the money that was mistakenly paid into his personal account,” he said.
“It is also important to state that at the time, MEC Masualle, was directed by Provincial EXCO as well as the Inter-Ministerial Committee led by the Presidency to coordinate the State Funeral.”
“It was the Officials who erroneously deposited the funds into his personal bank account in order for him to discharge the above-allocated responsibilities, as is widely known by now, upon realizing the anomaly, the then MEC Masualle, within 48 hours had directed that the money, be reversed out of his account,” he said
“For the record, of the R250 000, only R5 000 was utilized by MEC Masualle. Even this amount was fully accounted for,” Mbananga said.
He said officials who were implicated in wrongdoing at the Eastern Cape Development Corporation (ECDC), were either suspended or dismissed, while others are facing criminal charges.
“The Provincial Government, on the basis of these, among others, guided by legal advice, has already written to the PP to firstly acknowledge receipt of the report as well as to give notice of Government’s intention to seek legal review of the report,” he concluded.