Public Protector vows action on Bapo’s missing millions

By Sobantu Mzwakali

Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane vowed in her first meeting with the Bapo Ba Mogale community of North West this week that heads would roll after she issues her report on a five-year investigation into the alleged looting of the mine-hosting community’s resources.

She told a rowdy gathering of around 500 community members in the Bapo Tribal Authority Hall in Bapong on Monday that evidence of fraud arising from the investigation would be referred to the Hawks and implicated government officials would be dismissed.

Mkhwebane met with the Bapo Ba Mogale community to update them on the investigations, which commenced in 2012, as part of a roadshow through several North West communities. Her office issued this brief report on the visit. PP report.

She promised the community that the handover from her predecessor, Thuli Madonsela, would not affect the work that had already been done by her. “The process continues and nothing will be removed from what the previous Public Protector has indicated,” she said.

The office of the Public Protector was asked to investigate whether there was any failure on the part of the Babo ba Mogale administration or provincial officials to manage the ‘D-Account’ into which all revenues due to the community should have been paid. If so, whether that constitutes maladministration. And, whether the community of Babo Ba Mogale suffered any prejudice.

MADONSELA’S PLEDGE

Madonsela promised in her last meeting with the Bapo community in October that, though she would have left office by then, the Public Protector would release a final report on the investigation before the end of January.

She announced the appointment of a forensic auditor and a quantity surveyor to help finalise the investigation.

Madonsela’s office said in a statement on her visit: “She confirmed that on her last visit to the community in July she had reported that the community had R721 000 to its name by the time the Auditor-General audited its account in 1994. She added that, over the past two decades, the funds in the account rose to a total of R617million, made up of R392million in deposits and R224million in interest earned.

“By 2014, the balance in the account had dropped to just over R495 000. She reported that the investigation has revealed that R7.7 million had been spent on the palace, with R3 million alone spent on the décor,” her office said then.

Mkhwebane told the Bapo on Monday: “I must indicate that there were lot of monies that were spent where people who were appointed need to account, especially the administrators who were appointed from the provincial government – the way they were the spending the money.”

COMPLAINTS

The public had launched the complaints with the Public Protectors office to respond to:

  • How much money was in the D-account for Bapo at the dawn of democracy;
  • How much money had gone into the account between 1994 and now;
  • What the money had been spent on;
  • Who were the individuals signing for the money to be spent;
  • Who benefited from payments from the D-account;
  • Were all the payments due from Lonmin and others paid correctly; and
  • Allegations of improper conduct, maladministration and corruption including in the building of a palace for Kgosi Bob Edward Mogale.

The Public Protector’s office does not have the power to prosecute, but Mkhwebane said: “Issues of fraud will be referred to the Hawks for the further investigations for those people to be criminally charged. And implicated government officials will be dismissed.”

Forensic Investigators were asked to analyse and summarise all transactions in a spreadsheet, divided into revenue and expenditure. They were also asked to validate the incomes and expenditure with supporting documents.

“They will look at who signed off payments from the D-Account. How much has been accumulated over the years and how much has been paid out, to who?” she said. And the quantity surveyor will look at the costs and material spent on the reported building of the R120-million palace.

Mkhwebane said that the delay in completing the report was between the North West administration and the outsourced companies, forensic investigators and quantity surveyors who were hired late last year.

“We only received the report of the quantity surveyor in January 2017 hence the full report is not ready. And, we still need to push as we have just received the documents form the National Treasury after a long struggle,” she said.

DEADLINES

She said there was information that was still missing such as the appointment letters of the administrators appointed by the province and the recently received and still to be analysed financial statement of the Bapo Investment Company (BIC) – which is the bigger part of the investigation.

But to finalise this report, she said: “We have to write letters to the traditional council, to the premier and to whoever is implicated in the spending of the monies to tell us the side of their story before we finalise this report.

“By the 15th of April we hope to have received all the responses from implicated parties.

“And we hope by the end of April, the report will be issued officially”, she said, in her closing remarks.

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