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The new Social Development Minister Susan Shabangu commit to act against officials for misusing money belonging to the department. File Pic Dikgari Ramothata

 Sassa cash hastily funded “dubious” events

The Standing Committee on Public Accounts (Scopa) has on Tuesday stuck the knife into the South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) for evading supply chain management process when planning three events in KwaZulu-Natal.

The damage tear open, following a presentation made to Scopa in Parliament which revealed that former  Sassa Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Pearl Bhengu signed off R16 million in December 2017 for the “dubious education meetings” in Kwazulu-Natal without following standard procurement procedures.

The meetings supposedly embezzled R4 million each from Sassa.

The money was allegedly approved within a day of receiving a request to finance the events, which never occurred.

Officials signed off to fund a marque for R485 000, flooring for R482 000, seats and ‘decor’ for R487 000, catering for R493 000, transport for R493 000, a sound system for R492 000; gifts and promotions worth R480 000.

The Committee Chairperson Themba Godi lambasted the fishy move, saying the Committee raised concerns with the fact that Bhengu, speedily approved the request for these events.

“She did not require the three quotes and swelled the costs for the services,” said Godi.

SASSA cash was also spent on VIP security for Bhengu, including the then Minister of Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini and her children, claiming their lives were in danger.

“Scopa has noted commitment made by the current acting CEO Abraham Mahlangu and the new Minister, Susan Shabangu, that they will act against authorities and where necessary and applicable recoup the monies,” said Godi.

Godi has also requested Mahlangu to investigate the matter of individual security offered to Bhengu since 2012 and supply the amount of cash that Sassa has spent.

“The Committee also deferred inquiries on deviations and developments to a later date, as it needed more time to probe the agency with the  National Treasury,” said Godi.

Democratic Alliance (DA) Scopa Spokesperson Tim Brauteseth said Bathabile Dlamini and Pearl Bhengu are liable for Sassa wasteful expenditure.

“DA will write to Minister of Social Development, Susan Shabangu, to request that her Department take an urgent move to hold her predecessor, Bathabile Dlamini, and Bhengu, liable for gross irregular expenditure at the Department amid their tenure, including the R16 million spent on questionable “education meetings,” said Godi.

Bhengu was the only provincial manager absent, citing ill health.

Brauteseth said Dlamini and Bhengu cannot escape accountability for their complicity in turning Sassa into their personal piggy bank while diverting money to vanity projects that did not improve the material welfare of grant recipients.

“While we welcome the commitments by the new acting Sassa CEO, Abraham Mahlangu to conduct further investigations, parliament must still exercise its oversight responsibilities and therefore Dlamini and Bhengu should be summoned to appear before Scopa to account for their actions,” said Brauteseth.

 

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