Supra stripped of control of purse strings

Treasury to intervene as 'big brother' in troubled North West

29 April 2018 - 00:00 By QAANITAH HUNTER
Premier Supra Mahumapelo is under increased pressure.
Premier Supra Mahumapelo is under increased pressure.
Image: Tiso Blackstar Group

The National Treasury is to take control of finances in North West and will launch an investigation into contracts and tenders issued by embattled premier Supra Mahumapelo's administration.

Amid widespread protests in the province against alleged corruption by Mahumapelo, a minister with direct knowledge of the matter told the Sunday Times that a team sent by Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene would investigate all suspicious tenders and contracts over R10-million.

The Treasury would play a "big brother" role and scrutinise all spending in North West, not only that of the provincial health department, the minister said.

The cabinet decided this week to place the health department under administration by the central government while the ANC mulls Mahumapelo's fate.

"We are taking the money away," said the minister, who asked not to be identified. "He [Mahumapelo] still has constitutional powers as premier ... but we have to deal with it politically."

Treasury officials had not responded to questions at the time of going to press.

CABINET PRESSURE

The Sunday Times understands that at least one participant in the cabinet meeting this week said the problems in North West were caused by "stealing from the public purse", which needed to be halted.

Last month, the office of the chief procurement officer tried to investigate a R30-million contract the provincial health department awarded to the Gupta-linked healthcare company Mediosa.

The provincial government did not co-operate, but Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi cancelled the contract this week.

The ANC national working committee visited several regions in the province this week in an attempt to resolve the crisis over calls for the premier's head.

Mahumapelo has been accused of influencing tenders and effectively giving the provincial department of finance spending instructions.

The provincial department of health faced a shutdown after the National Education Health and Allied Workers Union embarked on a strike two months ago, protesting alleged corruption by the premier.

Motsoaledi has deployed an administrator supported by seven officials from Pretoria to be in charge of the provincial department.

"The problem in the North West department of health is not health," Motsoaledi told the Sunday Times.

"It is procurement problems, supply chain problems, HR problems and maintenance problems."

Motsoaledi said he now had the authority to block irregular procurement processes. "If I see something is wrong and killing the department I will reverse it."

DYSFUNCTIONAL ADMINISTRATION

He said the issue in the province was not the quality of healthcare.

"The issue there is money. Corruption. And the health department there has not even been in charge of its own finances. For the last three years it was controlled by the provincial treasury and the premier's office. It's a money issue. It's procurement problems," he said.

As a result, the cabinet heard that intervention by the national Department of Health would not be enough, and the Treasury would also have to step in.

SACP provincial secretary and ANC MPL Madoda Sambatha welcomed the intervention in the department of health but said the whole provincial government should be placed under administration.

WIDESPREAD PROBLEMS

"The looting is not only in health, they have to look at agriculture too. That's where they stole the most," he said.

"The problem in the provincial treasury is they looked away while the premier's office did what they want."

President Cyril Ramaphosa announced on Thursday that he had assembled a team of 10 ministers, including Motsoaledi and Nene, to assess the situation in North West and report back in two weeks.

This may lead to other provincial departments also being placed under administration.

The NWC is due to deliberate on Mahumapelo's fate on Wednesday after the party's top six officials have considered the matter.

It is understood that ANC leaders believe they will find it difficult to persuade party structures, alliance partners and the communities calling for Mahumapelo's ousting that he should serve until the general election next year.


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