FS Premier’s office under the spotlight


The office of the Free State Premier is amongst some of the provincial departments that have received disclaimers in the 2017/18 financial year.
According to the Auditor-General’s recent report on national and provincial government, the Free State’s audit outcome has significantly regressed over a four-year period. The report states that the lack of accountability for government spending and the leadership’s disregard for internal controls led to the significant regression in audit outcomes.
The report released last week came just months after the on-going state capture commission of inquiry revealed that this office, under former premier Ace Magashule, spent R79.3 million on the Gupta-owned newspaper, The New Age. It was revealed that out of the eight provinces that spent a total of R113 million on this newspaper, the Free State coughed up the most.
The report further states that the provincial government overall failed to promote accountability for its spending in a manner that would have a positive impact on people’s lives and allowed money intended for the people to be misused.
Under his leadership as premier, Magashule is alleged to have also interfered in a housing project to ensure that a company, partly owned by his daughter, scored contracts worth R150 million from the provincial government. The company, known as Unital Holdings, was appointed to build RDP houses in Bethlehem without following due procurement processes and was paid millions by the provincial Department of Human Settlements.
The AG, in the latest report, confirms “we noted poor project planning and management at Human Settlements’ Bethlehem Baken Park Ext. 5 (Vogelfontein) housing project, which was irregularly awarded. Construction on the project started on 15 April 2013, but it had not been completed, with R81 million of the contract amount of R138 million already having been spent”.
The AG says there is an increasing call for greater accountability in the Free State as the province was unable to sustain any of its clean audit outcomes and warns it will continue deteriorating if the right tone is not set at the top. – Katleho Morapela/OFM News