Govt loses M10 million from Jo’burg property

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Ntsebeng Motsoeli

THE government has lost close to M10 million in uncollected rentals for its residential property in Hilbrow, Johannesburg.

This was revealed by the chairperson of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), Selibe Mochoboroane on Tuesday.

Mr Mochoboroane said that the government has not collected any rentals from the building for many years when it could have been racking in at least M1 200 000 annually.

He said the government has not collected rentals since 2010 meaning it has lost at least M9 600 000.

He accused the Foreign Affairs Ministry of neglecting their duty and this has deprived the government of much-needed revenue.

“It is inexcusable that the government is losing the much-needed money because of negligence,” Mr Mochoboroane said.

The Foreign Affairs ministry’s senior officer, ‘Malefa Manong, told the PAC panel that they have since retained and renovated the building which had become dilapidated to the extent that at some point that it was a hideout for gangsters.

Ms Manong further said that while they had contracted the Johannesburg based Ebilox Pty Ltd Real Estate Agent for the maintenance and rent collections, they had not received any money from since 2014.

The PAC panel was also told that the Foreign Affairs ministry’s was preparing to lodge a court application against the agent.

She said that the agent has claimed to have used some of the money for the maintenance of the building but failed to account for the rest of the rentals.

Asked why the ministry has not terminated their contract with the agent, the Foreign Ministry legal advisor, Mr Toka Moshoai, said attempts to advise the ministry’s senior officers to do so had proved fruitless as the contract was left to run.

“We have advised our seniors on many occasions that the contract with Ebilox must be terminated but no action has been taken. The contract is renewed automatically on yearly basis provided neither of the two parties lodges a complaint. None of the two parties has complained so the contract was left to continue,” Mr Moshoai said.

Meanwhile, former vice-consul at the Johannesburg Lesotho Consulate, Tumisang Mokoai, was asked to explain to PAC allegations of irregularities leveled against him in the 2014 Auditor General’s (AG) report.

According to the report, during the financial years 2009/2010 to 2013/2014, Mr Mokoai and other officers at the Johannesburg consulate undertook nine unauthorised trips which cost M61 018. 12. The expenditure of the trips was classified by the AG’s report as “ineligible” since they were made without the approval of the authoritative bodies.

Such authority, the report said, was to be obtained from the principal secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs prior to taking international trips while authority was to be obtained from the High Commissioner in Pretoria.

Mr Mokoai, whose contract as vice consul lapsed in 2016, told the PAC panel that due to the nature of his work which was mostly “on the run”, there were times when urgent matters which needed his attention would be communicated to him while he was out of the office. He said had to make a “mindful” decision to attend to the pressing office matters but would first call his seniors to inform them of whatever office business he had to attend to.

“There were many times when I had to attend to pressing office matters which could not allow me to make procedural steps to obtain authority from my senior. There have been times when senior government officials needed help during their stops at the airport from their international trips. Sometimes their flights would be canceled but they had to get back home for other urgent duty calls. In such cases, I would have to take these trips in trying to clear the senior government officers’ routes at the exit points. But first, I would make phone calls to my boss because I needed the authority to carry out such duties,” Mr Mokoai said.

The auditor’s report has also documented some financial discrepancies which include the irregular payment of foreign service allowances to the vice consul which amounted to M33 449. 59.

Mr Mokoai said he was made aware of the unintended irregularities and has since paid back the over payments.

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