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Free State government under scrutiny as SIU investigates bursary scheme

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The beleaguered Free State government is under scrutiny, once again. This as the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) will investigate allegations of maladministration during the tenures of former Premiers, Ace Magashule and Sisi Ntombela.

The scope of the investigation is for the 2017/2018 financial year.

On Friday, President Cyril Ramaphosa authorised the investigation after allegations of misappropriation of funds was received from a whistle-blower.

Issuing of bursaries 

Being investigated is the issuing of student bursaries for the 2017/2018 financial year, from the Office of the Free state Premiers. The President gazetted a proclamation report of serious maladministration in relation to the affairs of the bursary scheme.

The report has revealed irregularities of the approval, allocation and or payment of bursaries. This includes students’ travelling, accommodation, and stipends.

Improper procedures and policy violations will also be investigated.  SIU spokesperson, Kaizer Kganyago says a whistle-blower came forward.

“The SIU’s investigation will focus also on the office of the premier’s annual report, for the 2017/2018 financial year, concerning the approval, allocation or payment of bursaries, including travel accommodation and stipends to persons who were not entitled or were given in a manner that contradicts the applicable manual and policies. The probe will also look at payments made in respect to student accommodation, included the causes of such maladministration and any related unauthorised, irregular, fruitless or wasteful incurred by the office of the Premier, or losses suffered by the office of the premier or the state.”

Kganyago says the investigations will be focused on issuing that emanate from the June 2019 and October 2020’s auditor general’s reports:

Provincial government aims to cooperate

The proclamation states that the SIU should investigate incidents “that took place between 1 January 2018 to date”.  At this early stages of the investigation it is still unclear how much money is involved. The Free State Provincial Government say they will cooperate with the investigation.

“The acting Premier, Ketso Makume, he has noted and welcomed the investigation by the Special Investigation Unit, following a proclamation by the President Cyril Ramaphosa, in allegations of serious misconduct or maladministration, going back to 2017, 2018 particularly to bursaries and other related matters. The acting Premier reiterates the stance of the Free State Executive Council to support all lawful investigations into any allegations of maleficence or corruption, so that whatever public funds there are can best be used, to ensure that there is service delivery in the province and help to grow the economy,” says the Free State Provincial Government spokesperson Sello Dithebe.

The Free State government acknowledge to have 567 bursary holders at various institutions of higher learning, locally. Some of the beneficiaries of the bursary scheme do not work in their fields of studies while many others are unemployed.

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