Tourism South Africa has come under serious criticism in parliament for receiving a qualified audit opinion from the Auditor General for the 2020/2021 financial year. It is the first time in 17 years that this has happened.
Members of the Tourism Portfolio Committee wanted the board to explain how this had happened under their watch. The board has accepted responsibility and assured members that they were the ones that called for an investigation once they discovered discrepancies.
South African Tourism is the tourism marketing arm of the South African government. Its mandate is to promote the country domestically and internationally, whether for leisure, business or events tourism.
The organisation was doing a relatively good job until the pandemic brought tourism to a complete standstill around the world.
Acting CEO, Sthembiso Dlamini says while there is some movement in the right direction, the figures are still very low. She says around the globe tourism, arrivals have slumped to around 70% of what they used to be before the pandemic.
She says while SA Tourism is promoting the country abroad, other factors will play an important role in encouraging new arrivals.
“The key around that is the vaccination rollout. Those countries that are ahead on vaccination rollout are going to be the first to benefit from a tourism boom and we’ve seen recently for instance the US opening up to both domestic and international travellers as long as you have a vaccination certificate. So, we really hope that besides just tourism, honourable members will support the vaccination drive,” says Sthembiso Dlamini.
Dlamini has also credited the efforts of the Tourism Ministry for its role in opening up the United Kingdom market.
“The intervention of the ministry with the UK helped a lot. Once we got SA off the red listing, there was a bit of a jump and excitement in reservations out of the UK to SA. We’ve launched a global campaign as SA Tourism, which we are driving very hard,” adds Dlamini.
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Members were, however, unhappy about the qualified audit opinion as a result of irregular expenditure.
Acting SA Tourism Board Chairperson, Mojanku Gumbi said they were also disappointed. She added, however, that the board had, in fact, uncovered the malaise and instituted a forensic investigation.
She says they are in the process of undertaking disciplinary steps.
“We really are quite disappointed about this. We have taken steps around consequence management. The CEO had left a long time ago – I think in May already – before this investigation could be finalised. We have taken steps to make sure we look at corrective measures and some punitive measures,” says Gumbi.
Minister Lindiwe Sisulu says she only found out about the problems when alerted to it by the Auditor General.
She promised the committee that she will dig deeper and provide a full report next time.
“We’ve been in discussion with SA Tourism Board over a number of issues, but it is only when AG asked to see me that I became aware of the matter that you are now discussing in relation to TOMSA. The AG was very specific that there was a generally corrupt relationship between the CEO and TOMSA. We asked the AG to point us to those matters in his report and he did,” says Sisulu.
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