Home News HOD faces possible criminal charges

HOD faces possible criminal charges

182
SHARE

“The HOD submitted a memorandum to the former MEC for Sport, Arts and Culture on November 25, 2016, seeking support and approval for a three-year partnership programme, commencing with the 2016 Umsobomvu Tourism and Cultural initiative.”

THE NORTHERN Cape Sport, Arts and Culture head of department (HOD), Ruth Palm, might be facing possible criminal charges for her involvement in the procurement of funds awarded to the Traffic and Events Management Company (Traffic Events) for a festival which never took place.

This announcement was made after Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane yesterday released her report on the investigation into allegations of improper conduct and maladministration relating to public funds by the department and the Northern Cape Arts and Culture Council (NCACC).

Mkhwebane released her findings following an investigation into the misuse of funds allocated to Traffic Events to organise the Umsobomvu Youth Tourism and Cultural Festival.

According to the report, R1 million was paid to Traffic Events for the festival that never took place.

This after Palm apparently requested an amount of

R1.6 million from the NCACC to fund the festival.

“In July 2016, the senior manager cultural affairs of the department, Mr P Modise, made a submission in the form of a memorandum to the acting HOD, the chief financial officer (CFO), and the head of Provincial Treasury, seeking approval for the hosting of commemorative national and historic events to be held during the second and third quarters of the 2016/17 financial year. According to the memorandum, the festival was planned for December 2016 with a budget of R600 000 and the department would co-host it with the Umsobomvu Municipality in Norvalspont,” said Mkhwebane.

“Funds for the festival would be sourced from the Special Programmes sub-programme of the department’s budget. The memorandum was approved by the then acting HOD, Ms Ruth Palm, on July 11, 2016. The head of Provincial Treasury, Mr HV Gumbo, did not sign the memorandum.

“The HOD submitted a memorandum to the former MEC for Sport, Arts and Culture on November 25, 2016, seeking support and approval for a three-year partnership programme, commencing with the 2016 Umsobomvu Tourism and Cultural initiative.”

According to the report, the department made two separate requests to the NCACC to fund the event, of which one request came from Palm.

Process payment

“In the first memorandum, dated December 7, 2016 addressed by Mr Jacobs to the chairperson of the NCACC, Mr Manne Thebe, under the heading: ‘Request to process R600 000 payment to Majorkings Pty Ltd – for the Umsobomvu Youth Tourism and Cultural Festival’, the NCACC was requested to assist the department in processing payment of R600 000 to Majorkings Pty Ltd.

“The department’s second request was in the form of a memorandum from the HOD to the chairperson of the NCACC, dated December 13, 2016 under the heading: ‘Request to process R1.6 million payment to Traffic Events – for the Umsobomvu Youth Tourism and Cultural Festival – Novalspont’. In this memorandum, the HOD requested the NCACC to assist in the processing of payment of an amount of R1.6 million directly to Traffic Events for organising the festival. According to the memorandum, the department would transfer R600 000 of the amount back to the NCACC and the balance of R1 million would be included in the next trench payment for the 2017/2018 financial year.”

Mkhwebane said that the report stated that Palm disputed the claims.

“According to the HOD’s response, dated June 28, 2019, the NCACC resolved to enter into an agreement with Traffic Events to organise the festival based on a presentation that was made to the council on November 29, 2016 by Mr Bonakele Jacobs, the then director: Arts and culture of the department. She further indicated that the NCACC was supposed to have provided the department with an expenditure report in respect of the festival and the amount that was spent. To date, this report has not been submitted and no reasons provided as to why not.

“Further, as the department was not part of the MOA with Traffic Events, it could not recover the amount paid to it. That was the responsibility of the NCACC.

“The HOD further indicated that the department had no involvement in the MOA between the NCACC and that the transfer of the funds to Traffic Events was approved by the NCACC.”

Mkhwebane however indicated that Palm did act unethically in approving the request.

“In approving the request for the direct payment to the NCACC, the HOD did not act in the best interests of the NCACC and the department in terms of the expending of resources, as is required of an accounting officer by the PFMA (Public Finance Management Act).

“As the accounting officer of the department that is expected to support and assist the NCACC and is responsible for the making of transfer payments of public funds to the NCACC to enable it to perform its functions, the HOD should have acted with care and diligence to prevent fruitless and wasteful expenditure.

“The HOD was fully aware that the department had no role to play in the exercising of its mandate by the NCACC, yet she approved a request to the NCACC to make a direct payment of R1.6 million to Traffic Events, on the basis of reimbursement.

“The conduct of the HOD eventually led to an amount of R1 million of public funds paid for a service that was not rendered, which resulted in fruitless and wasteful expenditure.

“The conduct of the HOD further did not amount to the proper use of state property, as contemplated by the Public Service Act.”

Mkhwebane, in conclusion, indicated that the MEC for Sport, Arts and Culture should take the necessary action against Palm.

“The MEC for Sport, Arts and Culture should take the appropriate action against the HOD, Ms R Palm, in terms of the PFMA and the Public Service Act for her improper conduct in requesting the NCACC to make a direct payment of R1.6 million to Traffic Events to organise the festival that was never held, within 60 days from the date of receiving my report by the department,” said Mkhwebane.