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By Chulumanco Mahamba

Digital Night Supervisor

‘Shocking and unacceptable’: SA Tourism recovers R35m from irregular payments

SA Tourism recovers R35 million in irregular payments for unrendered services at their United States and South African offices.

South African Tourism (SA Tourism) has recovered R35 million in irregular payments for services not rendered at their US and South African offices.

In a statement on Monday, tourism minister Patricia de Lille said she wished to inform the public of a number of irregular payments that were made through SA Tourism’s United States of America and South Africa offices for services not rendered.

As an entity of the department of tourism, in order to facilitate officials’ communication with important partners in the course of endorsing and marketing South Africa, SA Tourism has a number of hub offices in major source market nations worldwide.

Irregular payments and invoices

“I was recently informed by SA Tourism that there had been a number of irregular payments and invoices noted that do not meet the definition of compliant and valid or internal control verification standards,” de Lille said.

The minister said the irregular invoices were created about three days before the previous financial year (31 March 2023) and processed piece by piece in order to override banking controls.

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At the end of March 2023, executives who are no longer with SA Tourism processed the payments from the SA and USA offices of SA Tourism.

According to the department, after the irregular payments were detected, the service provider was notified and acknowledged that a sizable amount of the money they had received—which had been approved by SA Tourism’s acting chief financial officer, acting chief executive officer, and acting chief operations officer—was for services that had not been provided.

‘Shocking and unacceptable’

“These irregular payments are completely shocking, and it is unacceptable that officials entrusted with public funds continue to act with such contempt of public finance laws and regulations. We will not leave this matter unaccounted for,” the minister said.

“The internal audit report is being finalised, and the matter has also been reported to the auditor general of South Africa to investigate.”

After months of communication with the media agency to pay the money back, SA Tourism recovered all the funds, and R35 million was turned to the SA Tourism account.

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“We are relieved that all the money has been recovered from the irregular payments. I can also confirm that the auditor general of South Africa is in the process of finalising a delegation from the AG’s office to do an audit on the SA Tourism New York office,” de Lille said.