I pen this open letter to you as the MEC for Finance in KwaZulu-Natal out of a sense of frustration and in the interest of the public at large.
There are many serious issues concerning the Treasury Department which, as a Party we have been raising with you as the MEC, Premier Willies Mchunu as well as his predecessor, Senzo Mchunu. Having not received responses to our queries and concerns, I now write to make public our concerns about the goings-on at the KZN Treasury.
Speaking at Thokoza‚ Ekurhuleni in July this year IFP President Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi MP said, “The corruption in our country has reached its peak. The manner in which the ANC-led government is corrupt is beyond Satan’s imagination.” This is true of what is happening at the KZN Treasury.
Millions, if not billions of rand of tax payer’s money is being stolen by a syndicate within Treasury under the guise of the employment of consultants, the staging of Air Shows, using the services of law firms linked to employees within Treasury and many more. Certain of your employees and friends are given carte blanche to continue to milk the public purse but a female official who had the courage and a sense of justice to turn whistle blower, was summarily dismissed. It would appear that your Department has outlawed whistle blowing and that you have allowed a “white cabal” to cease control of Treasury.
We have raised our concerns in debates in the Legislature, in our response to the State of the Province Address as well as in the Portfolio Committees but to date no action has been taken against those responsible.
I shall itemise some of my concerns as follows:
1. During my Response to the State of the Province Address on 03 March 2015, I reminded the Premier that President Zuma was forced to call on the SIU to investigate the abuse of tax payers’ money on projects like the International North Sea Jazz Festival, Commemorating Prisoners of War – St Helena event and the KwaZulu-Natal Sharks Board. This call was made due to the lack of resolve from Treasury to investigate these matters. My concern is that if the report uncovers anything that could implicate the Premier, you as the MEC for Finance or your predecessor, that report will never see the light of day. I am aware that the SIU’s costs of running investigations are paid by the department that it is investigating. Tell us if your Department agreed to pay for the investigation if so what did it cost and has a report been finalised?
2. A staggering amount of R28million of tax payer’s money was paid by the KZN Treasury for the North Sea Jazz Festival that never took place and this money has not been recovered to date. Who has become rich at the expense of the poor and why is it that Treasury is not interested in pursuing the recovery of this money?
3. Former Public Protector, Advocate Thuli Madonsela, in her report “Rocking the Boat” found that whistle-blower, Ms Fikile Hlatshwayo-Rouget’s dismissal in 2013 was illegal and directed that she be re-instated. But you, apparently on the advice of your attorney, Mr Martin Potgieter, who was also Ina Cronje’s attorney, have decided to challenge this in court. How much has it cost the tax payer to enlist the services of Mr Potgieter’s law firm over the past few years and how is it that the same Mr Potgieter gets appointed so often even though there was a change of MEC in 2014.
4. Treasury argues that the Public Protector has no jurisdiction over labour related matters but this submission flies in the face of a decision of the North Gauteng High Court on 26 October 2016 which held definitively that the Public Protector has the power to investigate labour related matters. If you feel so strongly that Treasury did the right thing by firing the whistle blower, I challenge you to pay the legal fees from your personal account and not further deplete the public purse.
5. In that same Report, it is alleged that Ina Cronje had paid millions of rand of public funds for private jets to take part in Air Shows thereby promoting white supremacy. The public needs answers from you as to what purpose Treasury purports to serve in running air shows. Are such events not within the purview of some other government department? Who has benefitted from these air shows since it certainly is not the public at large whose interests you should be representing.
6. The Premier’s adviser, attorney John Wills has undue influence in what goes on in Treasury. He was hired by former MEC Cronje to fire the whistle blower. Mr Wills also has a law firm and you need to come clean on how many government contracts his law firm has been receiving and at what cost. The Public Protector’s report also highlighted the excessive use of white consultants by Treasury.
7. I am aware that Finance Head of Department, Mr Magagula had been finalising a settlement package for Ms Hlatshwayo-Rouget but he was stopped by you. Why? Challenging the Public Protector’s findings is a futile and costly exercise. Are you placing the financial interests of white law firms that are connected to the former MEC and yourself above the needs of our people?
8. Dr Clive Coetzee who has been recommended by the SIU to be criminally charged is now employed by Treasury as a General Manager. He is running private air shows with Ina Cronje which are supported by the Treasury at the tune of R12million per show. He also runs the Mountain Biking events with Treasury support while also running the Infrastructure Development Projects for the Sub-committee on Major Events. He is in charge of a huge team of engineers located in Treasury. But surprisingly when Treasury decided to appoint a “crack team” to deal with the rot in the Department, Coetzee was appointed Head of that team. How is it that someone who has been recommended to be criminally charged, is placed in such influential positions within Treasury. Why is it that the “Infrastructure Crack Team” is within Treasury when it should reside within the Department of Public Works?
9. Mr John Wills has such influence in Treasury that even though the SIU recommended that Dr Coetzee be criminally charged, he together with yourself agreed on a settlement and a final written warning. Why does he have such influence in Treasury matters and is he protecting Coetzee with your assistance?
10. When the issue of the excessive use of consultants at outrageous costs under the Municipal Support Programme (MSP) was raised, we were told that there will be a transfer of skills to state employees. We still find that accounting firms
are being used t while state employees remain idle resulting in a doubling or tripling of costs. You need to explain whether there is indeed a transfer of skills or whether you are encouraging the use consultants so as to benefit those who are politically connected to the ANC. We need to know how much is it costing Treasury to engage law firms and accounting firms. Why is it that the MSP is based in Treasury when it should rightly be in COGTA?
11. In my response to the State of the Province Address I referred to reports that KZN spent more than R5billion on consultants – the highest in the country. Such excessive use of consultants can only be attributed to the ANC’s policy of cadre deployment.
12. The Head of the Internal Audit Unit, Ms Mothlalepula Motaung has acted as HOD of Treasury on many occasions. Can she conduct unbiased oversight in terms of the PFMA over the very Department that she is often in charge of? In effect she is acting as referee and player which should never be the case if you are serious about fighting corruption. I am sure you are aware that there are allegations that Ms Motaung herself is involved in corrupt activities. Are those allegations being investigated?
In concluding I would like to remind you that when you were the Chairperson of the Finance Portfolio Committee and also in the SCOPA, you were very vocal about eradicating corruption. You spoke out very strongly against those who were not doing their work with integrity and in the interest of the public at large. Now that you are the MEC for Finance, I expect the same level of commitment, dedication and honesty from you so that we may expose corrupt practices and take our province forward.
I urge you, MEC Scott to bring ethical governance into practice and to serve the interests of the majority of our people.
Hon M B Gwala MPL
IFP Leader in the KZN Legislature