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‘Protector’s report is wrong’

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Lesaoane denied findings in the report that the HOD of Sport, Arts and Culture had requested the NCACC to make the payment to his company

THE OWNER of Traffic and Events Management Company (Traffic Events), Caution Lesaoane, has accused Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane of wrongfully accusing the Northern Cape Department of Sport, Arts and Culture, especially head of department (HOD) Ruth Palm, in maladministration and the misappropriation of public funds.

Lesaoane said on Friday, during an exclusive interview with the DFA, that the Public Protector’s investigation into a reported incident where R1 million was paid to his company (Traffic Events) by the Northern Cape Arts and Culture Council (NCACC) was flawed.

He said that he was never interviewed by any investigator from the provincial or national office of the Public Protector.

Lesaoane admitted that his company had received R1 million but indicated that the payment was done according to the service level agreement (SLA) they had with the council to host the Umsobomvu Youth Tourism and Cultural Festival.

“We submitted a proposal for the event to the NCACC. The NCACC invited us to do a presentation after which we entered into an agreement to host the event for the duration of three years and it was agreed that the NCACC would pay R1.6 million for the hosting of the event. The beneficiaries of the event requested that the festival be divided into three events, a film festival, a lecture on the Colesberg Four, with the final phase being the Umsobomvu Festival. We agreed and two of the events were hosted. The Umsobomvu Festival, as reported by the Public Protector, however never took place,” Lesaoane said.

He said the reason for this was because of a late payment by the NCACC.

“According to our agreement with the NCACC, we were supposed to be paid before December 16, 2016. We funded the film festival and the lecture from our own pockets, believing we would get paid on time by the NCACC. That, however, did not happen and we were only paid R1 million on December 24, 2016. The festival was scheduled to take place on December 31, 2016, however we had to cancel it as artists had pulled out as we could not pay them.”

Lesaoane said that they had tried to postpone the festival to a later date.

“We wrote to the NCACC and requested that the festival be hosted on another date, maybe in Easter. The council just never came to the party. We then asked the previous MEC for Sport, Arts and Culture and the HOD to intervene in the matter. The department only tried to persuade the NCACC to host the festival on another date but, like us, they were not able to change the NCACC’s mind.”

He said that the picture painted by the Public Protector that his company had run away after being paid the R1 million, was false.

“We invoiced the NCACC for R1 million and we were paid that amount. Originally our entire invoice was for R1.6 million. The NCACC withheld the R600 000 as the festival did not take place. We tried to convince the NCACC to hold the festival on another date, but they failed to adhere to our requests. We wrote to them several times but they never responded.”

Lesaoane denied findings in the report that the HOD of Sport, Arts and Culture had requested the NCACC to make the payment to his company.

“I only met with the HOD to request the department to intervene on our behalf with the NCACC to host the final leg of the event. We met with her maybe twice in connection with this matter. We never put anyone under duress to approve anything.”

Lesaoane said the Public Protector’s report was incorrect in putting the blame on the department and its HOD.

“The sad part is that the focus is now on the department and not the NCACC. The Public Protector is wrong for requesting a response from the department on this matter as the department does not know what transpired. Our agreement was with the NCACC. The NCACC is now portraying a picture that they did not know anything about this mess.

“We were never interviewed by the Office of the Public Protector regarding this matter. We are taking the report to be reviewed by our lawyers and will take matters further afterwards.”

Spokesperson for the Office of the Public Protector, Oupa Segalwe, said the investigation was launched to determine whether there was maladministration within the organs of state.

“The investigation was into the provincial Department of Sport, Arts and Culture and the Northern Cape Arts and Culture Council (NCACC), not Traffic Events. There was never a dispute during the investigation about the fact that R1 million was paid to Traffic Events by the NCACC on behalf of the department for an event that never took place. As a result, no findings were made against Traffic Events. Instead, findings of wrongdoing were only made against the organs of state and public officials involved,” said Segalwe.