The Free State Legislature’s Chief Whip and Chairperson for the Standing Committee on Public Accounts (Scopa), Neels van Rooyen, says the province is not in a state of collapse.
This, after media reports suggesting that the province is on the brink of a financial crisis and might soon be placed under administration. He confirms to OFM News that some departments are financially strained but disagrees that there is a crisis at this stage nor that the province is on the verge of collapse.
“We were briefed by the Auditor-General on Friday on the audit outcomes of the different provincial departments, and if you look at those audit outcomes it does not look very good. There is some problems, but I wouldn’t say we are in a state of collapse” said van Rooyen. He added that this despite having some of the departments regressed from clean audit to unqualified.
These departments includes the Office of the Premier, Health Department, and the Finance Department.
The Office of the Premier has this year made national headlines with many poking holes in the alleged corruption activities that took place in the province under former premier Ace Magashule’s administration. These include the controversial Vrede Dairy Project where approximately R250 million, which was earmarked to assist emerging farmers was looted out of the province.
The project was allocated R220 million and only R2 million was spent on the farm, while none of the farmers benefited from the project. This dairy farm has been at the centre of allegations of money laundering by the Gupta family as the tender for the project was awarded to the family’s linked company, called Estina. It is alleged that a large portion of the money earmarked for the project was also used to fund the family’s Sun City Wedding in 2013.
The latest scandal to hit this office involves millions that have allegedly been paid to the Gupta’s newspaper. The State Capture Commission of Inquiry led by Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, last month revealed that the Free State has coughed up the most to fund the Gupta owned newspaper, The New Age. It was revealed that under Magushule’s administration, this office spent an exorbitant amount of R79.3 million on this newspaper, which is the highest of the R113 million paid by the eight provinces.
OFM News previously reported in 2016 that the Free State Treasury had spent more money on The New Age newspaper in three months, than what a national government department and all its entities have spent in an entire year. The Provincial Treasury had spent a total of R2.2 million on the newspaper during the 2015/16 fiscal year alone.
Meanwhile, the financial woes of the health department came to light during an oversight visit by the National Council of Provinces two months ago, when they highlighted that the this department battled to meet the basic needs of the people because of its costly litigation cases and continuous use of private ambulances. The council revealed that the department had racked up over R500 million in medical claims and paid out R21.5 million in the last seven months.
Katleho Morapela / OFM News