South Africa: Public Protector Thuli Madonsela Revisits Bapong Community

Public Protector Adv. Thuli Madonsela will on Saturday, 8 October 2016, revisit Bapong to provide a progress report to the Bapo-ba-Mogale community on one of the complaints they lodged with her office.

The community asked the Public Protector in 2012, to investigate allegations of systematic looting of the collective resources of the community, including funds held in the so called "D account". She was also asked to look into whether all of the royalty payments due to them from mining company, Lonmin, and others businesses mining on the community's land were paid. They further asked that the alleged abuse of resources relating to the construction of Kgosi Mogale's palace be investigated.

On her last visit in July, Adv. Madonsela told the community that they had R721 000 to its name when Auditor-General audited its account in 1994.

She explained that, over the past two decades, the funds that were in the account amounted to more than R617million, which was 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.

In 2014, the Public Protector explained, the community stopped using the account, preferring a newly established investment wing for its resources. Since then, about R40million in royalties were received. Most of the money has since been spent.

"What this means is that, basically, all of the money earned has been spent," the Public Protector said, adding that the investigation team was aware of the identity of some of the officials that had been authorising expenditure and that some of them were still in office and would be held to account.

"What this means is that, basically, all of the money earned has been spent," the Public Protector said, adding that the investigation team was aware of the identity of some of the officials that had been authorising expenditure and that some of them were still in office and would be held to account.

She added that, throughout the last 20 years, the North West government was accountable for the expenditure of R617million in the account, paying suppliers directly for goods and services in line with a budget presented at the beginning of each year.

The biggest amount spent, said the Public Protector, was on the building of the palace. Initially, the budget for the palace was R20million. When the Public Protector got involved, the amount spent had risen to R50million. The last forensic report investigators received stated that R80million had already been spent. This was despite the Public Protector having asked that the expenditure be halted pending her investigation.

Some of the money was paid to administrators, consultants and suppliers for services such as catering. Other expenditure areas were allowances paid to tribal councillors and members of the royal family. In addition, funds were paid to universities and colleges as bursaries, and to book stores. The investigation will establish who the beneficiaries were, if procedures were followed and if there was value for money, the Public Protector said.

The Public Protector said the investigation will establish what was paid for with the community's collective resources and if there was value for money.

"We will follow up on the process followed to find out if those that were paid deserved what they got," she said.

Adv. Madonsela told the community that her office had all the information, including cheque numbers, the names of people paid and the identity of those who signed.

She raised concerns about the fact that throughout the last 20 years, there had been no oversight structure such as a trust with trustees to look after the resources of the community.

The Public protector was further asked to establish how much is in the account, how have the funds in the account been spent and identify people who have benefited from the said funds.

Prior to the meeting, the Public Protector will meet with the Chief and the Traditional Council.

Source: South African Government.