Sisulu revealed that two more investigations were to be instituted into the irregular expenditure incurred by her predecessor’s two-hour ministerial cook-off with media personality Somizi Mhlongo.
THE TOURISM Department has taken on judicial review in the Labour Court the decision of a presiding officer who granted a not guilty verdict to two officials implicated in irregular expenditure involving R119.8 million.
This was revealed by Tourism Minister Lindiwe Sisulu when she was responding to ANC MP Phumeza Mpushe, who asked about disciplinary action taken in poor implementation of the Working for Tourism Infrastructure projects.
Mpushe said the auditor-general found that the department had over the years incurred R119.8m in fruitless and wasteful expenditure due to poor implementation of the Working for Tourism Infrastructure projects.
The management of the projects has since been moved to the Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA), as an implementing agent.
In her reply, Sisulu said the department instituted consequence management after conclusion of investigations into the irregular expenditure.
“Seven employees directly involved in the management of the projects were charged with gross financial misconduct and gross negligence. Two were found not guilty of the charges preferred against them,” she said.
“The department has referred these cases to the Labour Court to review the ruling of the chairperson of the disciplinary hearing,” Sisulu said.
The minister also said the parties were currently exchanging legal papers.
“The cases will be set down for hearing in the Labour Court in due course when those implicated have pleaded,” she said.
Sisulu added that the department opened criminal charges with the police against the officials, in line with the provisions of the Public Finance Management Act regarding allegations of financial misconduct.
Asked about improvements made by the department in using the DBSA as an implementing agent, Sisulu said this had assisted to improve the planning, costing and management of infrastructure projects.
“The DBSA contract includes work on new tourism infrastructure projects, as well as Expanded Public Works Programme-funded projects. Technical assessments have been completed on all projects to determine the scope of work, after social facilitation engagements with communities,” she said.
Sisulu also said 76 infrastructure projects were currently being implemented by the DBSA on behalf of the department.
“Of the 76 projects, 18 are Working for Tourism projects, funded through the Expanded Public Works Programme. This work includes the completion of previously halted projects as well as the restoration of completed projects, before handover to the owning entities and communities.
“Three of these projects are in the contractor-appointment stage, two of are still in detailed planning. The remainder of the projects are in the tender-process stage.”
Sisulu also said the DBSA would be approaching the National Treasury to seek exemption from the moratorium on procurement above R30,000 and tenders would be advertised once the exemption was granted or the moratorium is lifted.
“Completion dates on projects will vary, depending on the scope of work and the appointment of contractors. These will become clearer once the procurement processes have been finalised,” she said.
Last month, Sisulu revealed that two more investigations were to be instituted into the irregular expenditure incurred by her predecessor’s two-hour ministerial cook-off with media personality, Somizi Mhlongo.
In May 2021, former tourism minister Mmamoloko Kubayi held a ministerial cook-off event ahead of the department’s budget vote.
The auditor-general had found the R150,000 spent on the event to be irregular expenditure.
Sisulu said the department’s internal audit unit investigated the irregular expenditure associated with the pre-budget vote cook-off event.
The investigation had recommended a further investigation involving external parties, and the terms of reference for the next stage of the investigation have been developed.
The minister also revealed that she has received a letter from the Public Service Commission, which is also investigating the matter after a complaint was received.