Gauteng ‘big spenders’ saga hots upTuesday, 03/07/2012 - 16:37
By Chantelle Benjamin
Corruption Watch can reveal that the investigations into Gauteng Local Government and Housing MEC Humphrey Mmemezi and Speaker Lindiwe Maseko were presented to the provincial Privileges and Ethics committee today (Wednesday 11 July) and will be debated at a special sitting of the legislature on Friday 13 July, despite Mmemezi’s resignation as MEC.
Read our complementary article on the Gauteng integrity commission here.
A source at the legislature said the report will still be discussed, because while Mmemezi had resigned as MEC, he is still a member of the legislature.
Mmemezi, who had been in office for just over a year and a half, resigned with immediate effect on Wednesday 11 July, and issued an apology for making personal purchases on a government issued credit card. He said he has paid the money back to the legislature.
In his statement, he said the decision was made after consultation through the African National Congress’s integrity committee and provincial office bearers. “I have decided the honourable thing to do under these circumstances is to step down from the executive council as the MEC,” he said, adding that he “deeply regretted” the purchases.
He has warned that he will be taking legal action regarding some allegations made against him – namely that he failed to report a car accident in KwaZulu-Natal in December and allegations that he took a trip to London using government money.
Mmemezi said in his statement that his misuse was based on a misunderstanding regarding how the card could be used: “From the briefing I received from officials in my department on the use of the corporate credit card and the ambiguity of the Ministerial Handbook, I got the impression that I could use the credit card for both official and personal purchases, as long as I could repay the department where there are personal expenses.
Both the provincial legislature and the Gauteng African National Congress has indicated that they would not comment or make decisions regarding either politician until the probe by the provincial integrity commissioner had been completed, but it’s obvious that the continued allegations about the two politicians have proved an embarrassment to the party.
Mmemezi axing rumours
Rumours had abounded that Mmemezi was to be fired by Gauteng Premier Nomvula Mokonyane, after new allegations emerged about Mmemezi allegedly abusing his position as Mogale City’s human capital manager to award his daughter and three others travel allowances they were not entitled to.
He has already been accused of misusing his government-issue credit card for hotel stays, for not reporting a second car accident to the Gauteng legislature and for using a government credit card to buy a R10 000 painting from a McDonald’s restaurant in Silverton, Pretoria.
The rumours that he would be fired by the end of July were denied by the Gauteng ANC, while the premier’s office has refused to comment. Mokonyane is presently in China on business.
Mgijima launched an investigation into Maseko after allegations of a conflict of interest, after a company, of which her daughter is a director, was selected to cater for the Gauteng legislature’s opening dinner at the Northgate Dome.
Other allegations regarding personal items, such as hygiene products and expensive alcohol, purchased though her office were also investigated.
Mmemezi approached Commissioner Mgijima to investigate the allegations that the MEC misused his government-issue credit card.
The latest allegations regarding his tenure at Mogale City would not form part of the investigation.
“The committee is presently discussing a date for me to present both reports,” Mgijima said.
Process being followed
The integrity commissioner tables his report to the privileges and ethics committee, which then meets behind closed doors and invites the two “accused” to put forward their argument.
The committee, made up of representatives of all political parties in the legislature, then drafts its report and recommendations based on its findings and the report is presented to the House for adoption.
Only then can the report be commented on publically.
ANC policy conference decision
Embarrassing revelations around politicians like Mmemezi and Maseko may have contributed to the party’s decision last Thursday 28 June, at its Midrand policy conference, to put on the table for further discussion the axing of ANC leaders facing corruption or criminal charges, or accusations of mismanaging their government posts.
This would be before court or official proceedings unfold, the Star reported.
Gauteng ANC secretary David Makhura, who this week denied Mmemezi’s sacking, was quoted in the Star as saying that everyone had agreed on the need to address the ANC’s “troubled image”.