Bathabile Dlamini and Pearl Bhengu must be held personally liable for SASSA waste

Issued by Tim Brauteseth MP – DA SCOPA Spokesperson
22 May 2018 in News

The Democratic Alliance will write to the new Minister of Social Development, Susan Shabangu, to request that her Department take urgent action to hold her predecessor, Bathabile Dlamini, and former South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) CEO, Pearl Bhengu, personally liable for gross irregular expenditure at the Department during their tenure, including the R16 million spent on dubious “education meetings”.

In a presentation to the Standing Committee on Public Accounts (SCOPA) in Parliament today, SASSA revealed Bhengu signed off R16 million in December 2017 for “education meetings” in Kwazulu-Natal without following standard procurement procedures.

Today, Bhengu was the only Provincial manager absent, conveniently “unwell”.

It is alleged that Bhengu, within a day of receiving the request, approved inter alia:

• A marque for R485 000;

• Flooring for R482 000;

• Chairs and ‘decor’ for R487 000;

• Catering for R493 000;

• Transport for R493 000;

• A sound system for R492 000; and

• Gifts and promotions worth R480 000

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 urgently appear before SCOPA to account for their actions.

Shipping Bhengu off to Kwazulu-Natal will also not atone for the financial damage she did while she was the CEO at SASSA. She must immediately be suspended pending an investigation and, if found guilty, made to pay back all the SASSA money that was wasted. The same is true for Dlamini; the fact she is now the Minister of Women despite her demonstrated poor leadership is an indictment on the ANC government and sends a clear message that accountability is not a priority for them.

The real tragedy is that while grant recipients are struggling with the rise in food prices triggered by the VAT increase to 15%, SASSA continues to lose money without any sense of responsibility to the millions of poor South Africans it is meant to serve. The DA will not sit idly and allow this blatant misuse of state coffers to continue.