Supra Mahumapelo's costly stunts made things worse

19 August 2018 - 00:00
Former North West premier Supra Mahumapelo resigned in May 2018 following province-wide protests calling for his removal from office.
Image: Alaister Russell/The Sunday Times Former North West premier Supra Mahumapelo resigned in May 2018 following province-wide protests calling for his removal from office.

The North West premier's office took R10-million from each of the province's 10 departments to spend on Supra Mahumapelo's service delivery campaigns - including his high-profile Setsokotsane community upliftment programme.

But despite all the funding, administrators in the province found, the Setsokotsane project actually "weakened intergovernmental structures".

This finding is contained in a presentation last week by the inter-ministerial task team set up by President Cyril Ramaphosa to investigate maladministration in the province, to the parliamentary ad hoc committee overseeing the intervention process.

Submissions by the National Treasury showed its investigations had found that:

• The education department filled posts using funds from infrastructure grants;

• The premier's office intimidated provincial departments through the use of lie-detector tests for finance personnel;

• The health department used a manual and paper-based procurement process, with little visibility of supply chain management risks;

• The department of public works paid a premium on low-grade office space, and allowed the systemic deterioration of the provincial government's property portfolio;

• Irregular expenditure by the North West Development Corp, a public entity, spiralled from R115-million in 2015 to R720-million in 2017; and

• Compensation of employees in the education department dropped by R54-million, even though 26,109 new teachers were hired;

In the same presentation, the auditor-general found that:

• No evidence could be found that goods or services had been delivered to warrant payments of R376-million to IT company Nepo Dynamics by the premier's office;

• The premier's office paid a firm that calls itself a "boutique project development company" a management fee of R13-million a month, based on a percentage of the R7-billion cost of a project to set up a provincial enterprise management office, but there was no evidence that any services were received for payments amounting to R72.2-million; and

• The Mathibestad Community Health Centre, built at a cost of R109-million and completed in 2016, has never opened because it has no water or electricity.

It was further submitted that Mahumapelo's office established "seven project management units that subsequently signed illegal contracts".

These are some of the issues that led the North West to a state of near-collapse under Mahumapelo. The task team was formed in April to probe the state of government in the province following violent protests by residents demanding Mahumapelo's removal because of alleged rampant corruption.

The provincial government has been entangled in a series of tender scandals, including a R180m three-year mobile clinic contract awarded to a Gupta-linked company, Mediosa, without going on open tender.

The ad hoc committee said its next move was to go to Mahikeng on an oversight visit to track where the money from the questionable transactions had gone.

"We're going to follow the money," said committee chair Charel de Beer.