Parly official, Gengezi Mgidlana spent millions on dodgy trips

Mgidlana took wife to funerals, shows, 'secret' report reveals

22 April 2018 - 00:03 By THABO MOKONE

Parliament's top official allegedly splurged nearly R4-million of taxpayer money on international and domestic trips in two years, including "unjustifiably" taking his wife to funerals and fashion shows.
This is revealed in an investigative report by parliament's audit committee, which found that secretary to parliament Gengezi Mgidlana had no justification to travel with his wife to business meetings, concerts and funerals while parliament picked up the tab.
The committee also found that Mgidlana acted irregularly when he appointed a divisional manager for IT, Unathi Mtya, without proper qualifications. She was later given a R265,000 bursary to study for the degree she supposedly had before her appointment.It also found that Mgidlana violated the National Road Traffic Act when he ordered parliamentary officials to chauffeur him in cars fitted with blue lights. Once, Mgidlana instructed his drivers to skip red traffic lights and drive at up to 160km/h.
The seven-month-old report has been a closely guarded secret in parliament but came to light when Mgidlana submitted it to the High Court in Cape Town. He was challenging the lawfulness of the investigation and subsequent disciplinary proceedings against him that were due to take place this month, before he sought an urgent interdict.
In court papers, Mgidlana argued that the committee dealt with him unfairly by not allowing him to make oral representations, and failing to call National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete and National Council of Provinces chairwoman Thandi Modise, who had allegedly authorised a R71,000 ex gratia bonus for him.
Mgidlana wanted the court to set aside the committee's report and for a fresh and independent inquiry to be instituted. His lawyer, Kevin Kiewitz, said Mgidlana maintained that he acted lawfully in his responsibilities towards parliament and stood by arguments set out in the court papers. His bid to interdict the disciplinary proceedings was dismissed with costs on Friday.
Mbete's office was not available for comment yesterday. Modise's spokeswoman, Tsepiso Shuenyane, said the disciplinary hearing would now go ahead.The committee found that Mgidlana and several senior employees were not entitled to the ex gratia bonuses because they had not suffered "historical injustices" as they had not worked in parliament long enough.
The report details how Mgidlana ran up travel bills totalling R3.9-million between December 2014, when he was appointed, and June last year, when he was placed on special leave at his request. The bill includes trips he undertook with other senior parliamentary officials. The expenditure includes:
• R1.4-million on air travel;
• R1.3-million on five-star hotels;
• R651,000 "for chauffeur ... services";
• R330,000 "for tours, primarily when on international travel"; and
• R218,000 for car hire.
The report said trips to London, Turkey and Scotland breached parliament's travel policy because they were sanctioned by junior staff at Mgidlana's instruction.
The committee recommended that action be taken against parliamentary official Sandisiwe Schalk for approving Mgidlana's travel without the authority to do so, and against the human resources director Lizo Makele for authorising a R31,000 bursary for Mgidlana as well as Mtya's bursary to study in the US.
Turning to Mgidlana's trips with his wife, the committee found that 15 out of 19 trips fell outside the scope that allowed him to travel with a spouse. "Some attendances, such as funerals and weddings, can be classified as events or occasions. However, some of these do not seem to have been in the interest of parliament, nor necessary for the business of parliament to justify the [secretary's] attendance with his spouse at the expense of parliament."

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