The deputy chairperson of one of the advisory committees established by Lindiwe Sisulu while she was the Minister of the Water and Sanitation and Human Settlements has denied claims members of the National Rapid Response Task Teams (NRRTTs) abused state resources on lavish travel, accommodation, and personal laundry services.
This after the DA, in a series of statements, last Thursday said Sisulu’s advisor Mphumzi Mdekazi claimed more than R1.76 million on travel and accommodation since May 2019.
DA MP and spokesperson on human settlements Emma Louise Powell also said on Friday the NRRTT billed the Department of Water and Sanitation over R3.7 million in travel and accommodation expenses, between March 2019 and the state of disaster period.
Powell based her claims on written replies to parliamentary questions asked by the DA.
Likhaya Ngqezana, the deputy chairperson of the NRRTT, has slammed Powell’s allegations, saying her reading of the parliamentary responses bordered on “inaccuracy” and were part of a “desperate agenda” to undermine the service delivery and governance work that was performed by Sisulu.
Ngqezana said the figures given to the media by Powell were never canvassed with the individual members of the two NRRTTs that focused on the departments of water and sanitation, and human settlements.
“But it is important to highlight that there is governance around the operations of all committees of the minister and operations are funded and managed from the office of the director-general,” Ngqezana said in a written reply to The Citizen.
Sisulu aide’s R1.7 million travel bill
Ngqezana disputed that Mdekazi formed part of the NRRTTs and that he was earning a whopping salary of R142,920. He said Mdekazi – Sisulu’s political advisor – was part of another advisory committee.
“R1.7 million figure is disputed and we are awaiting an official figure from the travel agent and travel expert. The salary also being bandied around is also inaccurate.
“Mr Mdekazi has been paid R117000 not the thumb sucked figure given by Ms Powell. She must then prove where she got her figures that Mr Mdekazi is paid over R142000,” Ngqezana said.
He said the NRRTTs were formed in September 2019 and that the DA’s calls for the advisory committees to be disbanded were moot, as termination letters had been served to members of the committees that were appointed by Sisulu because their appointments were linked to her term of office.
“All advisory committee members have different specialities, role and responsibilities and were established to assist the minister in performing of her duties,” Ngqezana said.
Advisory committees meant for service delivery
Ngqezana added that a “general impression” had been created that the NRRTTs were not critical for service delivery, but “an unnecessary animal which is a waste of the public purse”.
“There have been no progressive endeavours to evaluate the rationale behind the existence of the structure and the critical importance of its activities to the South African public.”
Ngqezana also called on the DA to wait for the outcome of investigations into the NRRTTs by the Office of the Public Protector and the Public Service Commission.
“If the complainant is of the view that members of the committees masqueraded as service delivery facilitators but in effect were the political mercenaries abusing state resources, then our legislation the Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act enjoins her to report that to the police.”
DA sticks to its claims
In a statement on Monday, Powell accused Sisulu of dispatching two spokespersons to provide “rights of reply” to the DA’s claims.
She said the DA had the contracts of the advisory committee members, which showed that they were signed off directly by Sisulu.
“Instead of sticking to the facts, Sisulu’s henchmen sought to muddy the waters, accusing the DA of harbouring ‘personal grudges’ against the minister,” she said.
Powell said one of these spokespersons threatened litigation against her if she does not apologise for her claims.
“This was of course refused and no direct correspondence nor summons have since been forthcoming. Referring to a letter as ‘litigation’ is indeed quite a stretch, and the DA will not be silenced or intimated by these public threats.”
Powell added that the narrative being peddled by Sisulu’s spokespersons that the DA had a personal axe to grind against her were further from the truth.
“The only axe the DA has to grind is with the endemic levels of greed and corruption which plague this Nation under the kleptocratic leadership of the ANC,” she said.
Compiled by Thapelo Lekabe