LIMPOPO Premier Stan Chupu Mathabatha has defended his decision to not fire Agriculture MEC Mapula Mokaba-Phukwane for irregularly spending taxpayers’ money during her tenure as Transport MEC.
This was after the Public Protector ruled that Mokaba-Phukwane must pay back the R4 million used when she issued a forensic investigation tender to a company that did not meet the requirements.
When talking to the media on Tuesday, Mathabatha said firing Mokaba-Phukwana would not help because she might not afford to pay back the money.
On Tuesday, Mathabatha ordered Mokaba-Phukwana and her accomplice Henley Du Plessis to pay back R1 638 728 in irregular expenditure but refused to show the MEC the door.
“Firing her it won’t help the people of Limpopo or the government. We need her to pay back the money, so she must work so that she pays the money. If we fire her, she will obviously tell us that she does not have the money,” said Mathabatha.
“However, the Public Protector did not say we should fire her, she said she must pay back the money, so I am following the Public Protector’s order.”
In 2014, Mokaba- Phukwana was an MEC for Transport and Community Safety when she irregularly awarded a forensic tender to MPA, a debt collecting company, which was not authorised to conduct forensic related task. Her accomplice, Du Plessis was the Head of Department(HOD).
Since Mathabatha ordered the two to pay back the money, political parties in the province have been calling for Mokaba’s removal.
Democratic Alliance said it was not happy about the fact that the two would not pay the full amount as recommended by the Public Protector.
” The Premier should have acted upon the release of the public protector’s report and dismissed the MEC with immediate effect from her office, while also recovering the full amount of public money that was sent down the drain. Public Protector required the full amount to be recovered, and the MEC has been instructed to only pay back around one third. We are concerned about the lackadaisical and soft handed approach the Premier of Limpopo took on the long-outstanding matter of former MEC of Transport. Its four months after the Public Protector released the report into MEC Phukwana, Premier Mathabatha reprimanded the MEC and ordered her to pay R1 638 728 within 14 days in line with the Public Protector’s remedial action,” the party said in a statement.
The Economic Freedom Fighters(EFF) said: “We are disappointed with how the Premier is handling the corruption relating to Mokaba Phukwana. The Premier claims to be anti-corruption and fighting any element that is linked to corrupt activities but his actions tells a different story,” said EFF provincial secretary Jossey Buthane.
“He should have without any doubt acted immediately based on the Public Protector’s report as initiated by the EFF which states that she was wrong by awarding the tender irregularly. He waited for so long, now he wants to be seen acting but there is a difference between wanting to be seen acting and acting as a principle. If it was an ordinary HoD or a junior official of a department, the Premier would have sacked such individuals without consideration and paraded their dismissal in media houses.”
On February 2, 2017 the Public Protector found that Mokaba-Phukwana did not have the legal authority to award a contract to any company since that power vests in the HOD as the accounting officer in terms of Section 38 of the PFMA.
The Public Protector launched the investigation after the EFF complained about this matter in the provincial legislature.
Political analyst Elvis Masoga told SABC radio that: “It is a good thing to see our leaders respecting the findings and the recommendations of the Public Protector. It is good to see that the Premier of Limpopo respected and did what the Public Protector’s recommended.”