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Rampant government spending has been in the news over the last few years. There was Humphrey Mmemezi, the former Gauteng MEC for local government and housing as well as Speaker Lindiwe Maseko, both big spenders who were alleged to have misused public money. There was Tina Joemat-Pettersson, the former minister of agriculture, forestry and fisheries, who flew her children and their nanny home from a holiday in Sweden – using the public purse

Now there is Herbert Mkhize, special advisor to Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant and former executive director of the National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac).

The Sunday Times reports that Mkhize used his Nedlac credit card to run up a bill of well over R1-million for travel, car hire, and household goods at Makro that included nappies, power tools, toilet paper, pet food and boxer shorts, among others – this was revealed in a forensic audit submitted by chartered accountants AFCA & Partners to the Department of Labour in November 2012.

Mkhize was not earning a pittance at the time, either – his Nedlac salary was R800 000 a year. This makes him a big zero in our eyes, but an even bigger zero is Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant, who, reports the Sunday Times, suppressed the forensic report and made everyone who saw it sign a confidentiality agreement. She is our zero of the week for knowingly keeping secret this abuse of public funds, and for defeating the ends of justice.

The report, which was eventually obtained by DA MP Ian Ollis under the Promotion of Access to Information Act, recommends that police charges and civil claims be instituted against Mkhize and former Nedlac CFO Umesh Dulabh.

It recommends, among others, that Mkhize repays R35 000 spent during an unauthorised trip to the US; repays R62 200 borrowed illegally from Nedlac; pay tax on R146 000 interest-free loans from Nedlac; and repay R133 000 paid to him for wrongly accrued leave.

However, Mkhize has still not been asked to take responsibility for these items, and is still employed by Oliphant. When she announced in September 2011 that he was stepping down as head of Nedlac, she said, among other glowing remarks, that “South Africa owes him a debt of gratitude”. For misusing taxpayers' money? We think not.

It’s one thing to spend public money freely – it’s another thing to knowingly cover up knowledge of such spending and protect the perpetrator. But this is exactly what Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant did when she suppressed a forensic report that revealed excessive spending by her special advisor. For this, Oliphant is our zero of the week.