KZN Education MEC cleared of allegations of breaching Ethics Code: Protector

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KwaZulu-Natal Education MEC, Kwazi Mshengu has been cleared of allegations of breaching the Executive Ethics Code. This follows an investigation by the Public Protector.

The investigation follows a complaint by MPL Dr Imran Keeka based on a 2019 local newspaper article that a forged letter from Mercedes Benz South Africa had been created. This would have justified the MEC to use hired vehicles.

Public Protector, Advocate Busisiwe Mkhwebane released several investigation reports at a media briefing on Monday afternoon.

The investigation focused on whether Kwazi Mshengu used hired vehicles at taxpayers’ expense instead of an official car, and whether his conduct breached the Executive Ethics Code.

It also looked at the purchase of a new official vehicle for the MEC, which was within the prescripts of the law.

KZN MEC for Education Kwazi Mshengu under fire for car rental:

Public Protector Advocate Busisiwe Mkhwevane found that while a technical report indicated the engine of the vehicle had to be replaced, there was no indication it was in a poor condition.

Mkhwebane said there’s no evidence that Mshengu acted in a manner that is inconsistent with his position, breached the Executive Ethics Code or was involved in maladministration.

“No evidence was found that he was involved in any “elaborate scam” not to use the official car that was used by his predecessor. There is also no evidence that he or the department was involved in the forging of a letter, ostensibly from 18 Mercedes Benz Garden City Motors, dated 2 November 2019. The origin of this letter could not be determined during the investigation. The evidence shows that MEC Mshengu relied on the information provided to him by the Head of Department (HOD) in respect of the non-availability of the official car and that he had no reason not to accept it. It was also at the insistence of the HOD that MEC Mshengu accepted that vehicles would be hired for him for official purposes.”

Public Protector, Advocate Busisiwe Mkhwebane released several investigation reports on Monday: 

However, she found that the purchase of a new BMWX4 later in 2019 by the head of the department was not justified, improper and amounted to maladministration.

She has directed the provincial treasury to take appropriate steps to investigate the HOD and other department officials involved in the purchase of the new vehicle.

“Under the circumstances, it is concluded that the approval by the HOD of the purchasing of the BMW X4 for the official use of MEC Mshengu was not in line with the provisions of the guide and his responsibilities as the accounting officer of the Department in terms of section 38 of the Public Finance Management Act, 1999 (PFMA). It was therefore improper and amounts to maladministration. It also resulted in irregular and fruitless and wasteful expenditure, as contemplated by section 1 of the PFMA. The conduct of the HOD accordingly constitutes improper conduct as 19 envisaged in the Constitution and maladministration in terms of the Public Protector Act.”

Dr Masuku’s appointment

In another report, the Public Protector cleared the council of the Tshwane University of Technology for re-electing its former Chairperson, Dr Bandile Masuku for a third term, and the appointment of former Vice-Chancellor Prof Lourens Van Staden.

The office investigated allegations of maladministration and improper conduct by functionaries of the university following three complaints between 2018 and 2019.

“Dr Masuku’s serving of a third term as Chairperson of TUT Council was neither improper nor illegitimate as the TUT Council relied on the legal opinion obtained from Edward Nathan Sonnenbergs Incorporated in relation to the interpretation of the provisions of section 11(4) and (5) of Institutional Statute. In addition, Dr Masuku was elected Chairperson of the TUT Council by Council members present, therefore Dr Mausku’s appointment of Professor Van Staden was within the necessary prescripts.”

The Public Protector also found the Sol Plaatjie Municipality in the Northern Cape guilty of improper conduct and maladministration relating to the burial of two people in graves designated for someone else.