Cape Town – Parliamentarians want the costs on state and official funerals to be capped so that there is no unnecessary expenditure.
This emerged on Tuesday when Public Works and Infrastructure Minister Patricia de Lille briefed the committee on the suspension of the department’s director, Sam Vukela, in connection with awarding contracts for state funerals.
The call was made as the Presidency is busy reviewing the funeral policy amid reports that the recent funeral of Struggle veteran Andrew Mlangeni cost about R35 million.
Service provider Crocia Events was again awarded the tender despite allegations of charging inflated prices for previous funerals.
Auditing firm PwC recently probed allegations involving the funerals of Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, former minister Zola Skweyiya and ambassador Billy Masetla which cost the state R76m.
Briefing the joint meeting of parliamentary committees, De Lille said the disciplinary process against Vukela would start soon and be chaired by a senior advocate.
She said in terms of the senior management handbook, the disciplinary process should start within 60 days of the delivery of a letter to him.
“An internal disciplinary process that will be chaired by a senior advocate will be convened in due course,” the minister told the MPs.
The EFF’s Mathapelo Siwisa noted with concern that Crocia Events was awarded the Mlangeni funeral tender yet it had allegedly inflated prices.
The IFP’s Mthokozisi Nxumalo said there was a need to establish why the state funerals cost too much.
“It does not make any sense to have a funeral that cost R40m,” Nxumalo said.
DA MP Tim Brauteseth said he had warned De Lille that Vukela was “problematic” and had not answered questions when asked about the cost of state functions in the 2020-21 budget.
Brauteseth noted Vukela was previously dismissed but was reinstated after a botched transaction for a SAPS building when Police Minister Bheki Cele was police commissioner.
He said the minister should ensure that “the matter does not fall through the cracks”.
Freedom Front Plus’s Philip van Staden said the overcharging of the government on state funerals was a disaster. “Action must be taken and people be taken to jail for looting the funds. The minister must be held accountable,” he said.
The African Christian Democratic Party’s Wayne Thring said it was scandalous to spend in excess of R50m on state funerals during the Covid-19 pandemic. “There ought to be a cap on state funerals so we do not have officials putting hands in the public purse and spending public funds as they do in state funerals,” he added.
Committee chairperson Nolitha Ntobongwana echoed the sentiments of other members that there was a need for state funerals to be capped.
“We need to have a maximum amount,” she said. “It smells like a rat somewhere. How can a funeral be R35m and (they) appoint the same contractor since 2018?”
Responding to some of the questions, acting director-general Imtiaz Fazel told the MPs that the investigation into the R76m spent on state funerals in 2018 had found that 15% of the payment made was contractual compliant.
“The problem lies with how the department manages these funerals,” he said, adding that the suggestion that the funerals be capped was the way to go to avoid overspending.
De Lille said the funeral of heroes should not be tainted with allegations of corruption.